Mike Sharpe’s sporting passion leaves a lasting legacy on and off the track
Mike Sharpe’s passing on the weekend is still being felt among local sporting circles, as tributes continue to be to paid to the former Olympic sprinter.
Fellow track and field athlete, Mike Watson, was just one of those who called in Ian Rawlins’ radio show, Talking Sports, on Monday to recall the friendship he and Sharpe shared for about 50 years.
Ironically, Watson was there sitting alongside Sharpe on top of a ZBM van on Bermuda Day this year as they provided live coverage of the Half-Marathon out of St George’s. The broadcast was called the “Mike and Mike Show” and would be Sharpe’s last live coverage of an event, as he retired soon after.
“It was certainly a shock to me,” said Watson who heard the news from his wife late on Saturday night as he heading off to sleep.
“I couldn’t even sleep that night. It made me realise that we aren’t as young as we think we are. It hit home that people are at an age where they can expect these sorts of things.
“Sharpe was a couple of years ahead of me at school, he was running in the 800 metres and was a super star when I entered St George’s Secondary. I remember him being formidable in school sports.
“At age 14 I was invited to be a part of the national squad under coach Clive Longe. When I went there I saw Mike Sharpe training as a sprinter, a real good sprinter!”
Sharpe was part of a formidable 4x100 metres relay team that also involved Dennis Trott, Gregory Simons and Calvin Dill who represented Bermuda at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
“They just missed out on making the finals in the relay, finishing ninth when eighth teams went to the final,” Watson recalled. “They lost out to hosts Canada.”
Watson competed in the 1988 Olympics and is a multiple May 24 half-marathon winner. Sharpe developed into a top long and triple jumper and never forgot his athletic roots.
“He would show up regularly to the stadium to give grass roots sports some publicity,” Watson said of his time as a sport reporter for the television stations. “It will take us awhile to digest this one, only God knows when he is going to bring you home.”
Sharpe also served as a member of the committee of Government’s Annual Sports Awards, fellow sprinter Debbie (Jones) Hunter still serves on that committee. Sharpe received a special recognition award in 2001 for his television work, though as a committee member that year he was not allowed to vote, had to leave the room and only knew he had been nominated for an award in one of the categories.
“His interviews, sports specials and positive reporting of sporting events and issues have contributed significantly to our sports education,” Brenton Roberts, the then Director of Youth and Sports who was also the chairman of the committee, said that February 2002 awards night.
“It is readily apparent that our recipient loves what he does and does it well, such that he was nominated for special recognition.”
Roberts, who retired in 2006, recalled some happy times working with the committee which carefully considered all the nominations submitted in various categories. Sharpe was one of two media representatives on the committee.
“I was shocked to learn of his passing,” Roberts said yesterday. “My association with Mike has been two-fold, the annual Marathon Derby where I did the historical colour for a number of years and also the sports awards.”
Roberts also remembers Sharpe during his early days as a sports reporter at ZBM, after being introduced to the profession by Rick Richardson.
“He was always well informed, very cordial and respectful and we had a fairly close relationship when it came to sports, sports administration and sports development. Having been an athlete himself he understood all the challenges that came with it.
“I would like to express my condolences to his family and my deep found wishes for peace during their time of bereavement. I followed his career pretty closely and worked with him on the Sports Awards and at the Annual Sports Seminar when he was always an attendee from his position as sports director at ZBM and as an interested party.”
Freddie Evans, the president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, stated: “The BNAA would like to take this opportunity to formally extend our condolences to the family and friends of Mike Sharpe.
“We were shocked and saddened to learn of his passing and this is a devastating blow to the track and field community. Mr Sharpe has been a staple in the track and field community since he was a part of the Bermuda Carifta Team in the 1970s as a seven time medallist.
“Mike excelled as a jumper and sprinter and went on to attend University of Florida on an athletic scholarship, becoming SEC Champion in both the long jump and the triple jump events.
Evans continued: “Following his collegiate athletic career, Mike could not get away from sport and became a well respected sports journalist in Bermuda and maintained a keen interest in the sport of track and field.
“He always made sure to highlight the BNAA programme as well as up and coming track and field athletes in Bermuda. He created an outstanding legacy and the BNAA would like to take this opportunity to honour him.
“Professionally, as well as personally, Mike was an engaging, pleasant man who supported all sports and their athletes. His voice, his support and his energy will be missed.”