Bermuda punches well above its weight
Clarence Hill’s bronze medal in Montreal was a remarkable achievement. A heavyweight boxer without a proper ring, appropriate equipment or sparring partners. One measure of the significance of this achievement is that 45 years passed before a Bermudians won a medal. Yes, in the years pre-Clarence, Kirk Cooper sailed to a fourth-place finish and in the years post-Clarence, Peter Bromby did the same. But no medals.
Flora Duffy broke the spell with the most amazing performance in the triathlon. I suppose we should have seen it coming. Her gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and her world championships wins were good indicators, but there has been Covid, and she has had, injuries one of which kept her from training for a whole year — and it has been forty 45 years after all.
I’ve never seen such a performance. I won’t even try to describe it. My initial thoughts were, well it might be another 45 years until we win another gold, if we ever do.
But then I got to thinking. Perhaps I’m taking the wrong perspective on this.
What about Nicky Saunders’s high jump gold medal at the Commonwealth Games? He skipped his turn in the late rounds and the bar was set at a height never before attempted and he had only one shot at it. He made it and 30 years later his record still stands. In other sports, what about Clyde Best who played football for West Ham and broke racial barriers doing so and is still a hero at that club to this day. Or Shaun Goater, who was a star striker for Manchester City? Or Randy Horton, a star for the New York Cosmos? How about the Bermuda football team that beat Mexico, causing an uproar in that country?
Back on boxing, what about Troy Darrell who as a pro was ranked in the top ten in the world, or Freddie Thomas or Roy Johnson, who made an impact on the world stage, or the incomparable Hope brothers, who delighted crowds at BAA? Or sailing? How about Malcolm Smith’s world championship wins in the Sunfish class. In the triathlon, how about Jim Butterfield’s stunning performance in the Ironman where he broke the record for the marathon portion of that competition? Or Debbie Jones, who seemed destined for an Olympic medal but was robbed by a leg cramp during one of the heats? Or Rocky Thomas, who was starting running back for the New York Giants? Or Brian Wellman, world indoor champion in the triple jump?
It’s not just sport. Who can forget Gina Swainson being crowned Miss World and coming runner-up in the Miss Universe competition. In music, drummer Howie Rego toured with Sly and the Family Stone. Drummer Andy Newmark played with Fleetwood Mac, among other top bands. How many drummers can claim that distinction? Heather Nova, until Covid came along, packed concert halls in Europe. Or Collie Buddz, an international reggae star.
Earl Cameron was a pioneer actor in London. Yes, Michael Douglas has Bermuda status but his mother, Diana Dill, featured in a great many movies. Lana Young is making quite a splash and appearing in a lot of series on TV. One of the Muppets’ creators is Bermudian.
The list goes on and on. I apologise for any names that were on my mind but forgotten at the time of writing this. But Mr Editor, I think what I’m trying to say is that an Olympic medal may come our way only every 45 years, but Bermuda’s accomplishment on the world stage is staggering. I cannot think of a country even 100 times the size of Bermuda that has produced anywhere near the number of amazing people.
Surely that’s a gold medal in itself.