Six Grand Bahamians ready to compete at 2021 Olympics

READY FOR OLYMPICS – Pictured from left in top row are Donald Thomas, Joanna Evans and Alonzo Russell. From left in bottom row are Brianne Bethel, Lacarthea Cooper and Tynia Gaither.

Despite the absence of fans at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, The Bahamas is all set and ready to be represented.

The schedule for the Tokyo Olympics is July 21 - August 8. The Bahamas Olympic Committee ratified a 16-member team, which includes six Grand Bahamians taking aim at Olympic glory. Team Bahamas will represent in just two of the 46 disciplines that will be contested over the next few weeks, swimming and athletics. 

Representing Grand Bahama in athletics will be first-time Olympian and University of Houston graduate Brianne Bethel; 2016 Olympian Tynia Gaither; first-time Olympian Lacarthea Cooper; former World Champion high jumper Donald Thomas; and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Alonzo Russell.

In swimming 2016 Olympian Joanna Evans is a hopeful in the women’s 400-meter freestyle.  

In athletics Gaither is expected to compete individually in the women’s 100 and 200 meters. Bethel qualified to compete in the women’s 200m and will be a part of the women’s 4x400m team. Cooper was also listed as a member of the women’s 4x400m quartet. 

West Grand Bahama's very own Thomas, at age 37, will once again prove that he’s the ageless wonder when he competes in the men’s high jump. Russell, in his second appearance at the Olympics, will compete in the men’s 400m.

Secretary General for the Grand Bahama Amateur Athletic Association, and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the Bahamas Association of Athletics Association (BAAA) Dionne Britton spoke with The Freeport News and offered well wishes to all the athletes set to compete. Britton was especially excited for Bethel and Cooper. 

The two first time Olympians put together stellar performances over the course of the track season this year. Bethel, a graduate student at the University of Houston, returned to great form for the Cougars during the NCAA’s (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I track and field season. 

Over the course of her memorable performances, the 5’7’’ sprinter ran personal best times of 11.27 seconds, 22.54 seconds ,and 51.77 seconds, in the 100m, 200m and 400m respectively.

Cooper, at 17 years old and a resident of West Grand Bahama stands as the youngest of the bunch. Cooper transitioned from Grand Bahama to New Providence as a Hurricane Dorian survivor. The former Invictus Club athlete then become a student at St. Augustine’s College. 

Cooper is heading into her final year as a part of the Big Red Machine and it was there Cooper’s potential began to blossom fully.     

“Bethel was down the previous year but returned stronger this year,” Britton shared. 

“She showed that at the NCAA Championships.

“As for Cooper, after her performance at High School Nationals and the Star Trackers meet in 2019, and then losing everything in Hurricane Dorian, Coach Jason Edwards (SAC) asked to have her on a full scholarship.

“Now at 17 years old, this will be the first time we have a 17-year old at the Olympics representing The Bahamas. To that, I’m grateful. This is the first time Grand Bahama would have this many qualifiers for the Olympics. So, we made history as it relates to the Olympics.”

Highlighting the remainder of Team Bahamas in athletics is Olympic gold medalist and reigning women’s 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo; World 400 meters Champion Steven Gardiner; Anthonique Strachan, Devyne Charlton, Pedrya Seymour, Doneisha Anderson, Megan Moss, Samson Colebrooke, and Jamal Wilson.

Joining Evans in swimming will be Izaak Bastian.

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