Fourteen years ago, a collegiate basketball player, on a dare from an athlete friend, tackled the high bar and impressed an observing track and field coach.
A star was born!
Donald Thomas, the West Grand Bahama native, made the decision to focus more on high jumping than basketball and the advancement was amazing. An elder cousin Elva Russell-Rolle, contacted me and informed of the surprise development. Thomas was introduced to the nation via “A Sports View” column I produced at the time.
He quickly developed into a collegiate high jumping standout and two years later he finished fourth at the1986 Commonwealth Games. He had become a world elite performer and the legacy has simply grown and grown. When he won the Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) high jump gold in Barranquilla, Colombia this past Wednesday, it was his second triumph in that regional competition.
Thus, 11 years after he captivated the world of athletics with the high jump gold medal at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Osaka, Japan, Thomas is still capable of winning the ultimate medal while competing for his country.
When the subject of great world high jumpers come up, the Cuban Javier Sotomayor is clearly at the top. He is the only human being to jump over eight feet (2.45 meters 8’ ½’).
Sotomayor was just 17 when he jumped 2.33 meters (7’ 7 ¾’). Thomas’ best is 2.37 meters (7’9 ½’) and he has missed out on an Olympic medal thus far. At 34 now, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan very likely will be his last time competing on the world’s greatest sports stage.
Wouldn’t it be something though, if in the country where he became a world champion, he finally captures the only major medal missing from his resume, that of an Olympic variety.
Whether that happens or not however, Thomas has had a prodigious career. No doubt when conversations come around to the best high jumpers of all time, the Grand Bahamian has to be mentioned.
He is still building on one of history’s greatest high jumping legacies. Thomas has been an Olympic finalist; a Pan American Games gold, silver and bronze medalist; a Commonwealth Games gold medalist; a Central American and Caribbean Games double gold medalist; a Continental Cup silver medalist; and has won numerous events on the circuit.
He is to be congratulated for contributing mightily to nation building from his sports ambassador world platform.
Significantly as well, is a fact he does not get enough credit for. While over time, many of the top Bahamian athletes have opted to focus mostly on representing the country at the Olympics and World Championships, Thomas has remained available whenever the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) or the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) put together teams to compete under the Bahamian flag.
He has proven time and time again to be a true patriot.
I hold the view that he has been underappreciated in his own country. However, that is the culture in The Bahamas. The sporting fraternity in general, is often placed somewhere near the bottom of the totem pole of priorities by the powers that be.
Yet, Thomas and others keep persevering and enhancing the image of The Bahamas through sports.
Well done Donald!
Continued best wishes to the rest of Team Bahamas; Joanna Evans and her swimming teammates; and all other representatives at the CAC Games in Colombia!
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