Athletes happy with Bermuda Games experience despite difficult conditions
The challenging conditions faced at the USATF Bermuda Games inside the Flora Duffy Stadium on Saturday did little to spoil the experience for the vast majority of athletes who competed at the event.
High winds and a lingering chill tested the close to 140 athletes that featured at the World Athletics Continental Gold Tour meet, conditions that proved too much for Olympics 110m hurdles silver medal-winner Grant Holloway, who decided against running just minutes before his event was scheduled to face the starter.
However, those who did line up gave the meet a passing grade and have expressed their willingness to return if the event is held on Bermudian soil in the future.
“I can’t say I have ever competed in conditions quite like this before so that was a first, but I think the way I handled it and kind of how we worked through that adversity is good,” said Gabby Thomas, the Olympic bronze medal winner in the 200m, who finished second in the 100m event on Saturday.
The women 100m finalists faced headwinds measuring 5.2 metres per second, which might as well have been a hurricane in track and field terms, a reading that was consistent throughout the three-hour meet.
Grenadian great Kirani James came out on top in a close men’s 400m contest and believes the Bermuda Games and other meets across the region create important opportunities for athletes from this area.
“I think it was great, it’s a very nice atmosphere and I am happy we could come out here and put on a show for the fans,” said James. “I think in the 400m, we have the most competitive event in track and field and competing against these guys is an honour. The condition is what it is but the crowd was awesome and it has been a fantastic experience.”
“We should definitely have more meets like this in our region where our fans can see us compete live,” said James.
His sentiments were echoed by Bahamas’ Olympics and World Championships 400m champion Steven Gardiner, who took the 200m event here.
“The weather could be better but nobody can control that so it was good to come out here and compete. It was my first time in Bermuda and it was a good run all together,” said Gardiner.
The conditions did not stop Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn from posting a world-leading 12.67sec clocking in the 100 metres hurdles in a 2.5mps headwind, one of the highlight performances at the meet.
Americans Chanel Brissett (13.06) and Christina Clemons (13.15) were second and third.
“I was nervous at first, just because of the strong headwind, but I knew what I had to do,” Camacho-Quinn told The Royal Gazette. “World lead? I don’t know how to feel about it. I still have other things that I am more focused on, but I will take it.”
Camacho-Quinn’s time may dominate the headlines across the world, but it was local middle-distance man Dage Minors, who managed to get the near-capacity crowd on their feet with his gutsy third-place finish in the 1,500.
With the entire stadium willing him on, Minors crossed the line in 3min 46.82sec to finish behind Kenya’s Kamar Etiang (3:45.26) and the German Amos Bartelsmeyer (3:45.35).
Minors is hoping that his performance will provide inspiration.
“I can’t explain it, for some reason it just felt super-easy,” Minors said. “I think it had to do with the crowd; they carried me on. I am just a regular guy. I work as a schoolteacher, I don’t get any sponsorship, I wake up 5.30 every morning, run, do my thing and come back.”
With a nod towards the social state of the island after two murders in the past week, Minors added: “I hope that what I do on the track can inspire a young Bermudian because there isn’t much positivity out there.”
The other Bermudian in the event, Lamont Marshall, finished eighth in 4:10.86.
There was disappointment in the men’s triple jump for Jah-Nhai Perinchief, who could register only one jump — 15.75 — which left him in fourth place behind winner Chris Benard (16.57), Jordan Scott (16.37) and Kawain Culmer (15.82).
Canada’s Jerome Blake took the men’s 100 in 10.38, getting the better of Erriyon Knighton (10.39) and Noah Lyles, who was also clocked at 10.39. Bermuda’s Tre Houston suffered an injury in his heat and did not progress to the final.
The women’s event went to Teahna Daniels in 11.45, with Thomas (11.49) and Javianne Oliver (11.62) ensuring that Americans would take the top three spots.
Jamaicans Shiann Salmon (55.35), Rushell Clayton (55.89) and Janieve Russell (56.56) returned the favour in the women’s 400 hurdles.
Shericka Jackson, the Olympic bronze medal-winner in the 100 and 400 from Jamaica, took the one-lap event in 51.40 ahead of compatriot Candice McLeod in 51.57 and American Jaide Stepter Baynes in 51.93.
James delivered a strong performance to win the men’s 400 in 45.63 ahead of Britain’s Alex Haydock-Wilson in 46.05, with Jamaican Jaheel Hyde third in 46.27.
The first event of the day, the women’s triple jump, was won by another Jamaican, Shanieka Ricketts, the World Championships silver medal-winner, who posted a best mark of 14.15, which she achieved on her third attempt.
Ricketts, who has jumped 14.29 this season, was well below her personal best of 14.98, but finished ahead of Naomi Metzger, the Briton, who jumped 14.00. American Michelle Fokam was third with 13.42.
In the women’s 200, Bahamian Anthonique Strachan was strong in her finish, posting 23.24 to hold off American Dezerea Bryant (23.72) and Briana Williams (23.82). The win for Strachan arrives ten years after she won the Carifta Games sprint double in the same stadium.
“I am excited be back and repeat what I did back then,” Strachan said after the event. “I am satisfied with the performance because it wasn’t really great conditions, but I still came out on top.”
In one of the most exciting finishes on the day, Gardiner came out on top in a battle to the line against Trinidad & Tobago’s Jereem Richards. Gardiner clocked 20.79, a mere seven hundredths of a second ahead of Richards, with Emmanuel Matadi, of Liberia, third on 21.04.
Meanwhile, sports minister Ernest Peets welcomed the event, which he hopes to see develop into a yearly fixture.
“First of all, it’s amazing that we are having this event,” the sports minister said. “The atmosphere here today is incredible. When I was arriving and saw the crowds building, there was a lot of excitement in my heart.
“This is a real game-changer for our local sport, particularly track and field, so I am really excited to be a partner with the Ministry of Tourism. Hats off to the BTA.
“These are the types of things that are necessary for us to continue to grow our local talent. Obviously, Bermuda is a great destination and our economy can certainly use the uplift. So we are really excited and I definitely think this should be an annual event.”