It may not have been the ideal outcome for Team Bahamas at home during the 2017 International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF)/BTC World Relays, but The Bahamas ended the weekend long event on a high note.
In what was the first of its kind, the mixed 4x400 meters were the climax of the growingly popular Relays this year. With two of their best male and female quarter-milers enlisted, the Bahamas put on show for the hometown fans.
Anchored by Golden Knight and Grand Bahamian Michael Mathieu, Team Bahamas landed their very first gold medal in the three-year history of the World Relays. Men’s 400m world leader Steven Gardiner was the lead-off leg and exchanged to 400m Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo on the second leg.
Miller-Uibo gave The Bahamas its biggest lead for the race on the second leg before she exchanged the baton to sprinter Antonique Strachan. Strachan may have lost the lead briefly to the eventual silver medalists, the United States, but Mathieu re-captured the lead for good on the final 200m. The team clocked a time of 3:14.42.
The Americans won the silver in the time of 3:17.29, followed by Jamaica who won the bronze in 3:20.26.
Not only did The Bahamas land their first gold medal of the Relays, they can also boast being the very first winners of the mixed relays. The team’s one and only top-place finish of the competition placed them in ninth in the final standings with 15 points.
This was Mathieu’s third time performing at the World Relays and he expressed that in the end it felt good to finally get one over the USA.
“This is my third one and I never got to beat the USA. So when I saw a girl out there I said ‘not this time’… so yeah it was good overall,” he humored members of the press.
Miller-Uibo expressed it was all about putting together the perfect strategy especially with the crowd anxious for a medal. However, the crowd’s reaction to the mixed race was overwhelmingly positive and Miller-Uibo thought it was something the IAAF should continue with.
“We definitely did set the bar high. They asked us if we were looking forward to having it at other championships and I said definitely. We won this time so why not? Just being able to change things up and have some fun I think they should carry it throughout other competitions.”
Although it was the only medal won that evening, the Bahamians got a huge boost earlier on when the men’s 4x200m and women 4x100m teams qualified for the finals set for that night. It was a welcome sight for the fans after no Bahamian team qualified to make a final on day one.
Grand Bahamian Blake Bartlett ran the lead-off leg for the men’s 4x200m squad, with fellow Grand Bahamian Shavez Hart on anchor duty. Nonetheless, the team of Bartlett, Hart, Samson Colebrooke and Ian Kerr went on to finish fifth and clocked a season best time of 1:22.36. Canada ran a world leading time of 1:19.42 to win the gold, followed by the United States in second place in a season best time of 1:19.88 and Jamaica in third with a SB time of 1:21.09.
Hart said the team was filled with youth and they held their own against some of the top sprinters in the world.
“We had a lot of young guys doing it for the first time in front of big crowd, running against World Championship record holders. A lot of sub-20 runners that came out here and held their own. It was pretty good for their first time – no fumbling, no nerves with the guys. Everyone held their own to run a fast time for us. We’re only looking up from here.”
Bartlett finally got the ball rolling on his season. Performing in front of his country was a confidence booster, all while he just enjoyed the time home.
“It was fun. It was electrifying. We had some problems coming into it but we didn’t let that phase us. We just went out there so we could execute our race and have some fun.
“My season just started. This is probably my second race, to be honest. So I still got a long season to go and we just have to see how everything goes.”
The women’s 4x100m team, inclusive of Grand Bahamian trio Brianne Bethel, Tynia Gaither and Devine Parker along with Tayla Carter made it into the A-final thanks to their time clocked in the heats. They set a season best time of 44.11 seconds to qualify and reset their season best to 44.01 seconds. However, the team finished in sixth, while Germany, Jamaica and People’s Republic of China rounded out the top-three in the final.
Gaither was extremely proud of her teammates. While she acknowledged that the team is young she knows the team is going to be a force in the future.
“We’re young and we have a lot of room for improvement. It’s only going to go up from here.”
In terms of her first season as a pro she exclaimed, “I love it. I love the support from my country and, I love the support from my teammates. It’s a lot in store for me.”
It was Bethel’s second time on the World Relays stage, while Parker had her first taste of the IAAF spotlight. The team had little time to prepare but Bethel said the exchanges during the preliminaries went smoother than expected.
“We had a little bit of time but we got the stick around without dropping it and our exchanges were pretty smooth for one time practicing. I feel like if we had more practice time we would have been much faster but this will do just for now.”
Parker was the youngest on the team. The recent 200m silver medalist at the 2017 CARIFTA Games was thrilled about the experience.
“It was a really great experience seeing that I’m the youngest on the team. And I just came out here to do my best. And it was a really great feeling to perform in front of a home crowd and I think we did amazing.”
The United States were the Golden Baton winners with a total of 60 points. Jamaica placed second and accrued 39 points, followed by Australia in third with 24 points and Poland in fourth with 23 points. Trinidad and Tobago (17), Kenya (16), PR of China (16) and Germany (15) rounded out the top eight. The Bahamas (15), France (13) and Botswana (10) rounded out the top 10.
The World Relays will make its return to The Bahamas in 2019.