Duffy had me jumping for joy, says Saunders
Clarance “Nicky” Saunders will for ever remember the moment he struck gold in the high jump at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990.
He has had even more reason to replay his career-defining leap of 28 years ago since watching Flora Duffy repeat his feat in the women’s triathlon on the Gold Coast.
Saunders’s name has popped up in several Australian newspapers reporting on Duffy’s jaw-dropping win at the Southport beachfront last Thursday, with the 54-year-old admitting he has loved the extra attention.
“Flora has brought me out of the depths,” said Saunders, who has lived in London for the past 12 years. “It’s been so long, 28 years, but I will always have clear memories of that day.
“I remember the pride when I called home to my mom and dad and listening to the excitement, the people in the bars. I had people telling me where they were and little kids coming up to me. You never forget it and it’s something Flora will never forget.
“Not to devalue the ITU World Triathlon Series, because it’s a major competition, but the Commonwealth Games feels closer to home for Bermudians. It means a bit more to the country. Flora must feel on top of the world … she is top of the world!”
Saunders said it was inevitable that Duffy would join him in one of Bermudian sports’ most exclusive clubs.
“She’s been having such a fantastic run in terms of the ITU, the Xterra … this was just the logical next step. The next one will be the Olympic Games.
“She’s at the peak of her strength and barring any injuries she should do very well. It was also nice to see the young 19-year-old [Erica Hawley] do so well.”
A gold-medal contender at the 1986 Edinburgh Games, Saunders had his hopes dashed after the competition was marred by political controversy, with Bermuda joining 32 other countries in boycotting the competition in protest at the British Government’s position on apartheid.
Four years later, Saunders was confident and determined to achieve something special. His winning jump of 2.36 metres remains a Games record.
“The year before I had jumped 2.35 indoors and I just had supreme confidence,” he said. “I remember being in the gym in New Zealand moving weights I had never moved before. Even the weight guys were looking at me and thinking, ‘wow, what are you doing!’ All the stars aligned and my coach Gerry Swan and I got it right.”
An avid follower of Bermudian sportsmen and women, Saunders said the island should feel proud of its recent sporting triumphs.
He had a particular interest in the Carifta Games in Bahamas, where his cousin, Sakari Famous, won bronze in the under-20 girls’ high jump with a leap of 1.79.
“I look at the Bermudian newspaper every day,” he said. “I know about the local sport, the kids out in the UK playing football, the cricketers. I follow everyone.
“We’re a very small country and to have the talent we have coming out of there and continuing to come out of there … there’s a lot to be said about what’s going on at the grass roots level and that’s in every sport.
“One of my cousins, Sakari Famous, won bronze at Carifta. The family is really proud of her and she’s just got a scholarship to the University of Georgia.”
Saunders also keeps tabs on the exploits of Jahnai Perinchief, the potential successor to his high jump throne.
He also recalled a conversation between the pair, where the University of Arkansas student cheekily said he would take all of Saunders’s national records.
“I know about Jahnai Perinchief. I’ve heard he’s broken my junior record, although I’m not sure that’s strictly true,” Saunders said.
“Good on him and hopefully he will eventually go on and take my Bermudian record.
“You have your turn and I had my turn. I didn’t do it to inspire anyone else, let’s be honest about that. I did it because it was something I wanted to do. To think that it does inspire someone else … Jahnai has already come up to me and told me he’s going to beat all of my records anyway. To which I said, ‘If I was a young man again, you wouldn’t come close!’ That’s my competitive nature.”
After being made redundant by AIG, Saunders has unexpectedly wove his way back to athletics.
He has been head coach at Thames Valley Harriers Club in Wormwood Scrubs, West London, since September and also teaches athletics at local schools.
“It’s a struggle having a corporate salary to having no salary and trying to develop again in a foreign country,” Saunders said. “They say I’m too old for the corporate world, so I thought maybe I can give my time to help the conditioning of the youth. I really enjoy it.
“My wife was like, ‘You’ve got to get more going on’ and it’s difficult because I’m not a household name out here.
“I also have my own little club where I help kids get moving because there’s so much obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
“To see some of the kids, who aren’t going to be athletes, achieve some of the milestones we set together, is just great. I don’t need the elite athletes, although I would love that.”
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