Simons has high hopes for jumpers in Bahamas
Injury has forced Nirobi Mills to withdraw from the Bermuda team who leave this morning for the Carifta Games in Nassau, Bahamas.
The 15-year-old, who competes in the 800 metres, was to make his first Carifta appearance.
High jumpers Elisha Darrell and Sakari Famous will lead Bermuda's bid for medals at the $30 million Thomas A Robinson National Stadium, where Bahamas are hosting the Carifta Games for an eighth time.
Darrell and Famous are co-captains of the 13-strong squad, which contains eight debutants.
Middle-distance runner Ashley Irby will finally make her Carifta debut after missing the competition in Curaçao last year because of a leg injury. She will compete in the under-20 1,500 metres.
High jumper Amelia Othman, 14, will also get her chance to compete after qualifying last year, a month before turning 13, but was too young to compete. Othman has a best jump of 1.60.
“I feel all three have a very good chance of doing something they will be proud of,” Rohaan Simons, Bermuda's jumping coach, said.
“I never try to put any undue pressure on any of my athletes, they have enough pressure as it is. They know they are out there for a reason, which is the reason they train so hard.
“They are looking to be as far up the ladder as possible, but they also know that anything can happen on the day, good or bad.”
Famous was recently crowned Junior Female Athlete of the Year after an outstanding season, which including winning bronze at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Bahamas. She is bidding for a sixth Carifta medal.
Famous, who has a personal best of 1.80, will attend the University of Georgia on a full scholarship in the autumn, something which Simons feels will take some pressure off her in Bahamas.
“She's also won the outstanding girl award for Bermuda Pacers,” Simons revealed. “This Carifta is a bit different for her, she can be a bit more relaxed.
“[Last time] there were scouts there looking at her for collegiate purposes but she's got that now and can enjoy Carifta and mentor some of the younger ones. We worked hard getting her from 13 years old to where she is now.”
Simons also feels the best is yet to come for Darrell, who has a personal best leap of 2.11.
“I rate him as a fierce competitor and once he gets into the competition he seems to turn on,” Simons added.
“He's starting to elevate his game; I think he's going to do well. I feel confident they will all put on a spectacular show.”
Simons also has high hopes for Othman. “Sakari won one or two of her medals in the 1.60 area and that was at under-18, so just because Amelia is 14 doesn't mean she's going to get left behind.
“She's at a level now where all she can do is improve. She has all the time to get better and to get more experience. I see a lot of Sakari in her, she's also very bright academically.
“This competition is really going to bring her out of her shell and no matter what she does, I'm going to be proud of her.”
The team have six middle-distance runners, with Tilly Norman making her debut in the 1,500 and 3,000.
Johndell Cumberbatch and Robert Edwards will compete in the 5,000, while Ryan Outerbridge will run the 1,500 and 3,000. The sprinters are Taylor Hines, another first-timer, in the 200 and Clevonte Lodge in the 200 and 400.
Wayne Bean, another coach accompanying the team, expects some strong performances from his runners.
“It's my job to make sure I get them to feel comfortable before the event,” said Bean whose daughters, Alexis and Taylor-Ashley, are former Carifta medal-winners.
“Being nervous could be a good thing if they use it to their advantage. I looked at some of last year's events, even though then it was under-18 and they have now reverted to under-17.
“We do have a lot of first-timers but they are mature in their running. I think if Ashley Irby doesn't medal she will be very close; she's a terrific athlete and terrific person.
“She has this drive in her that a coach likes. It will be something for her to experience her first Carifta at under-20.”
Also accompanying Bermuda team are Mia Black as manager and Donna Raynor, the Bermuda National Athletics Association president, who is also the organisational delegate for the Games.
The opening ceremony is on Friday at 6pm, with the competition starting on Saturday and finishing on Easter Monday. Event times are 9am to noon, and 4pm to 9pm.