Donna Raynor disappointed to have no track and field athletes in Olympic team
Donna Raynor conceded her utmost disappointment that Bermuda will have no track and field representation at the Olympic Games for the first time since 1972.
The Bermuda Olympic Association is set to announce the team for the Games today, in which it is expected that two athletes — triathlete Flora Duffy and rower Dara Alizadeh — will be confirmed as the island’s sole representatives in Tokyo.
After the BOA rejected official invitations in the form of universality places for swimmers Jesse Washington and Madelyn Moore, and equestrienne Annabelle Collins opted to withdraw because her horse suffered an injury post-qualification, hopes remained that triple jumper Jah-Nhai Perinchief and long jumper Tyrone Smith would bolster the numbers.
However, neither managed to hit the automatic qualifying standard, nor get themselves within the top 32 of the rankings by the Olympic deadline on Sunday, meaning that for the first time since the Games in Munich 49 years ago, Bermuda will not include a track and field athlete.
“It’s definitely disappointing not to have a track and field team representing Bermuda at the Olympic Games this summer,” said Raynor, president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association. “It feels like we have always had a track and field team representing the nation but unfortunately we will have no one in Tokyo.
“The athletes we had trying to qualify gave it 100 per cent but unfortunately they could not hit the automatic standard or be within the places needed in the standings.
“From my point of view it is hard to take that World Athletics don’t rank athletes on individual performances but rather on a points system. In the case of Jah-Nhai he has outjumped some of the athletes who will be going but they have more points overall.
“The way it is set up doesn’t work because some athletes, particularly those at university, haven’t had the opportunities to compete. There was no indoor season and then the outdoor season was cut short.
“With what is going on in the world with Covid-19, not all athletes could travel to compete in the bigger meets and so they didn’t get as many points competing in smaller meets.
“However, we knew the qualifying criteria ahead of time and although I’m extremely disappointed and don’t agree with it, we have to accept it this time round and move on.
“It’s just tough because we have two athletes who are of Olympic calibre in terms of individual performance, but they couldn’t achieve what was required and as a result we have no representation at the Games.”
For Smith, in particular, the failure to qualify will come with a significant added regret, having aspired to achieve one final Olympic Games appearance to sign off on his athletics career in the most fitting of swan songs.
While that dream was ultimately not fulfilled, Raynor has implored the 36-year-old to reflect on an impressive career in which he has represented Bermuda in three consecutive Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
“It’s obviously tough on Tyrone because it would have been his last Olympics and I know he was desperate to be able to retire having competed at one final Olympics,” added Raynor, who hopes Smith will use his experience to mentor future generations of athletes. “I completely understand his disappointment, but I think Tyrone needs to look back and focus on the three Olympics he was able to compete in.
“His career might not be ending the way he had hoped, but he has had an incredible one and to represent Bermuda at three Olympic Games is an incredible achievement. Not many athletes from Bermuda have done that and that is what he needs to focus on.
“He will need to pick himself up but he has the opportunity to move into a different direction and become more of a mentor to future athletes. I know he is passionate about the sport and so no he can help move it on and improve it for future generations.
“He has the chance to still have a big voice in the sport because the opportunity is definitely there.”
While Smith’s athletics career draws to a close, 23-year-old Perinchief still has plenty opportunities to fulfil his Olympic dream, as attention now turns to qualifying for 2024 Games in Paris.
“The positive for Jah-Nhai is that he is still young and so he has plenty of time and opportunities to reach an Olympic Games, starting with Paris in three years’ time,” Raynor added. “He has such a big future and I just hope he sticks with it because I know he can achieve his dreams if he focuses fully on the next few years and does what he needs to do.”