‘Sports awards will get bigger and better’
Mark Jennings has vowed to continue on with the Sport Bermuda Magazine Sports Awards after last weekend's inaugural event at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium, CedarBridge Academy, clashed with other events such the boxing card at the Fairmont Southampton hotel.
The auditorium was about half full and many of the recipients did not attend, but Jennings is not deterred.
“We definitely want to continue with it, you have to start somewhere,” Jennings said.
“We will sit down with the team and go over the logistics. I had a good team, Herman “Butch' Smith, Allan Smith, Capri Smith, Dennis Wainwright, Joe Brown, Patrick Bean, Eddie and Sharon Swan, Donald Norford, Angela Seaman, Pam Trott, Marsha Smith and Gregory Jacobs. They were my eyes and made sure everything went well.
“The beauty of the night was being able to honour those people while they are still living. Bootsie [Earlwin Wolffe] sang a nice tribute to “Bummy” Symonds, “My Way”, while the Brothas and Olivia Hamilton also had good performances.
“What I really liked was the Ringing of the Bell when we stood up and acknowledged former sporting heroes who have gone on to glory. There is always room to improve and we are going to have the second one next year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We're letting everyone know early.”
Jim Butterfield, a former top triathlete, whose company Butterfield & Vallis was one of the major sponsors of the event, has promised to continue to support.
The event honoured 68 athletes from 30 sports, including Butterfield, Symonds, Donald Dane and Charlie Marshall for major awards. Dennis Wainwright went on stage to pay a tribute to Symonds, his former Cup Match captain. Both are also former footballers.
Butterfield and Marshall, a former referee and Bermuda Football Association president, who received the WF “Chummy” Hayward Award, praised Jennings for putting on the event. Butterfield's wife, Debbie, was one of the road running recipients for her accomplishments.
“I'd like to pick up on what Charlie Marshall said, a big round of applause for Mark Jennings,” Butterfield said.
“What Debbie and I loved about coming back to Bermuda was the feeling on the 24th of May, and that it was for everyone. I know Mark has some difficulty with his sight, which he says he is going to get straightened out in the new few months, and I hope they do.
“Mark has a big heart, he has a vision, and a vision is sport bringing us together. A lot of things divide us in Bermuda but sport brings us together. Looking around this room tonight, it is one of those things, whether it is football with Nahki Wells in England or Flora Duffy somewhere in the world, and I hope it continues.
“We certainly will continue as a sponsor to help look after the athletes and support the events.”
Marshall also showed gratitude to Jennings when receiving his award. “I want to say thank you to Mr Jennings and his team who worked so hard to achieve this evening,” Marshall said.
“I know we would have liked to see all the seats filled, all the trophies taken, but the first step is a first step ahead. Thank you very much sir, for what you have done, bringing back memories and seeing some of my old friends.”
Marshall said he was particularly moved by the Ringing of the Bell in remembrance of former athletes who have died, including former refereeing colleagues Ray O'Leary, McNeil Smith, Carlyle Crockwell, and other athletes and administrators such as Kenny Paul, who recently died, Clive Longe, Cal Hansey, Allan Simmons, Frankie Rabain, Michael Preece, Sheridan Raynor, Lee Holder, Randy Benjamin, Ellsworth Christopher, Louis “Red” DeSilva, Luther Wilkin, Edgar Smith, Derek Russell, Marischal “Mop” Astwood, Calvin Rayner, Howard Lee, Denton Hurdle and McDonald Swan.
“I was looking at the list and knew every single one of them,” Marshall said.
The programme began with Debbie Jones Hunter and Brian Wellman receiving awards for outstanding careers in athletics.
Olympian Jones Hunter made her mark as a sprinter at the Carifta Games, where she became the first winner of the Austin Sealy award for the outstanding athlete in the 1977 event in Barbados.
Wellman, also an Olympian, was one of the world's top triple jumpers, winning the gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in 1995 in Barcelona Spain with a leap of 17.72 metres, which was then a championship record. He also won bronze at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Boxer Clarence Hill, Bermuda's only medal winner at the Olympic Games, was present at the awards rather than attend the boxing card featuring professional Nikki Bascome.
Troy Darrell, the other award recipient for boxing, was working as Bascome's coach.
n Friends of Jennings are putting on a golf tournament at Belmont Golf Club on Saturday to raise funds to assist with Jennings's medical expenses overseas. The awards ceremony will follow at Young Men's Social Club. A GoFundMe page has also been set up to assist Jennings.