Bermuda Sport: The year they cancelled Cup Match
The year 2020 started promisingly enough with much to look forward to, including the 49th Carifta Games, which were set to take place in Bermuda for a fifth time in April.
It began with Southampton Rangers beating Devonshire Cougars 1-0 in the Friendship Trophy final on New Year’s Day.
That was followed by The Royal Gazette Bermuda Triangle Challenge, when the main concern was whether the weather would be perfect for the Friday night mile events on Front Street. It turned out to be blustery and rainy as Bermuda's Dage Minors took second place behind American Patrick Casey in the Butterfield Front Street Mile Elite Men's race.
Casey won the BF&M 10K the next morning, while Eilish McColgan, of Scotland, did likewise in the women's field — winning the mile and then romping home in the 10K with no rival competitor in sight.
"This is definitely the most challenging course I've ever done for the 10K and actually my slowest time ever, so I think that reflects just how tough the course was," said McColgan, the two-times Olympian and European Championships silver medal-winner.
Ryan Outerbridge and Kayla Raymond claimed maiden victories in the senior schools mile races the night before, Outerbridge doing it in his final year at the Berkeley Institute before heading off to school abroad.
“It was my last Front Street Mile in high school,” said Outerbridge who finished third last year. "I won one in primary school and one in middle school so this is my third."
Raymond, of Mount St Agnes, also 17, had an exciting first win, pipping Warwick Academy student Shayla Cann in a close finish. “I've been trying so hard to come first,” she said. “It was pretty cold with the rain and pretty distracting.”
The next weekend saw a 24-year-old record broken in the Butterfield & Vallis 5K when Lamont Marshall ran 15min 9sec to smash Kavin Smith’s 1996 time of 15:35.
Late January saw the coronavirus being referred to as a “potential killer virus” in a front-page Royal Gazette article, the same front page that carried news of the death of basketball great Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash.
Already 80 people had died in Wuhan, China, where the virus is said to have originated, with five deaths recorded in the United States and dozens more around the world.
However, sport was not yet impacted, as triathlete Flora Duffy won an event in Buffalo City, South Africa, to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
The football season was nearing its completion in March with preparation continuing for the Carifta Games in April as the track was relaid at the National Sports Centre.
Overseas, Nahki Wells completed his second multimillion-pound transfer in England when he joined Bristol City, of the Sky Bet Championship, from Premier League club Burnley on a 3½-year deal worth a reported £4 million.
In February and March, there was drastic change with a number of major events not held owing to what was soon to be declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. There were still no reported cases of Covid-19 in Bermuda in mid-March when the Bermuda National Athletics Association announced that the Carifta Games were being postponed until further notice.
Things were happening very quickly as, just a week prior, BNAA president Donna Raynor announced that the Games were still on. The lanes on the relaid track had been just marked and local officials were looking forward to an exciting championships.
“Fortunately for us, most of the athletes are coming in from the Caribbean and flying in on charters, not flying through the United States,” Raynor said in early March.
“That’s a good thing as so far we haven’t heard any incidents of the coronavirus in any of the Caribbean countries.”
It was the first time that Carifta has been postponed and other sports also faced the inevitable as the virus began spreading, although there still had been no cases in Bermuda when the Games were called off.
“We are urging event organisers and sporting bodies with anticipated gatherings of more than 50 people to postpone their events,” the Government said in a statement the day Carifta was called off.
MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda, which was scheduled for the week after the Carifta Games, featuring Flora Duffy, Bermuda’s two-times world champion, was also cancelled.
The Carifta Swimming Championships in Barbados in mid-April were then scrapped, and any thought of an in-person Government Sports Awards ceremony was abandoned.
When a behind-closed-doors event was finally held at the Berkeley Institute in July, as Bermuda was emerging from the more restrictive phases of reopening the economy, wheelchair sprinter Jessica Lewis was an overwhelmingly popular choice as Female Athlete of the Year.
Meanwhile, Tyler Butterfield was chosen Male Athlete of the Year for a sixth successive year. The junior winners were golfer Kenny Leseur and swimmer Elan Daley.
Football, two weeks from concluding its season in the first week of April, played on despite the Government urging that gatherings of 50 persons or more were to be avoided. The penny eventually dropped and the Bermuda Football Association suspended play with one round of league games outstanding — before abandoning the season altogether in late May.
By then, North Village Rams had already wrapped up a ninth league title, but only one of the two relegation places was decided. The ultimate decision was that one team would be relegated — Boulevard Blazers — with three to go down at the end of the 2020-21 season. Devonshire Colts and St George’s Colts were crowned joint champions of the First Division and were promoted to form an 11-team top tier.
The FA Cup final between North Village and Robin Hood also did not go ahead on April 5 and, surprisingly, was never rescheduled.
The reality of postponements began hitting home in April and May when the popular Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby also became a casualty, followed by the biggest event of them all, Cup Match, which was not played for the first time in its 118-year history.
The popular Eastern Counties, due to be held at Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club over three matches, had been the first to pull the plug. Notwithstanding financial implications, the organisers took the magnanimous decision to declare that the 2021 series would remain at the same venue, rather than continue the sequence of alternating to St David’s County Cricket Club.
Such a morality play is yet to be seen from the Cup Match clubs, as the tug-o-war between St George’s Cricket Club and Somerset Cricket Club over where the Annual Classic will be held in 2021 is bound to rumble well into the new year.
With the big events postponed or cancelled, including Bermuda’s trip to Uganda for the second stage of preliminary-round qualifying for the 2023 World Cup, the season was curtailed to only Twenty20 competition.
The Bermuda Cricket Board oversaw a successful re-entry with well-attended double-headers at four venues for fans starved of live sport.
Southampton Rangers won the Premier Division title but the star of the show was Kamau Leverock, who scored two centuries for Somerset en route to being named MVP. Flatts Victoria Recreation Club and Warwick Workmen’s Club were joint First Division winners, and its MVP was Regino Smith, the Flatts all-rounder.
The stewardship of cricket’s return proved to be the last real success for BCB president Lloyd Smith, as he was ousted at the annual meeting in November — his place in the hot seat to be taken by Arnold Manders.
After an enforced summer of inactivity, the autumn months brought a hat-trick of international sporting action to our shores.
In October, the second Bermuda PGA Championship was held at Port Royal Golf Course in its originally scheduled slot. But joining it in a welcome but dizzying two-week period for sport-starved fans were rugby’s inaugural World Tens Series and sailing’s rescheduled 70th Bermuda Gold Cup.
American Brian Gay, returning to Bermuda after finishing third in the inaugural championship, rallied from three strokes down to win his first PGA Tour event in seven years, beating Wyndham Clark on the first extra hole of a play-off.
On the waters of Hamilton Harbour, Taylor Canfield and his Stars & Stripes USA team won a third Bermuda Gold Cup. The event, which had been postponed from the spring, was coupled with the Open Match Racing World Championship.
In the rugby, the South African team SX10, whose first competitive action in the World Tens Series was delayed by a positive Covid-19 test, proved it was better to be late than never by blazing a trail into the final at North Field, National Sports Centre, where they beat Ohio Aviators 21-14.
A difficult year for athletics was made heart-breaking on November 8, when 18-year-old sprinter Clevonte Lodge-Bean, a 2024 Paris Olympics prospect, became Bermuda’s sixth road traffic fatality of 2020.
By then, football was back for a new season, with Southampton Rangers beating North Village 4-0 in the season-opening Charity Cup, while Devonshire Cougars took the second trophy of the season, defeating holders Dandy Town 2-1 in the Dudley Eve Trophy final in November.
But the scourge of Covid-19 was determined to end the year virtually as it began, with the global second wave descending on Bermuda and leading to a raft of new cases.
Football was suspended on December 5, initially until December 22 before the next inevitable update carried into the new year its interlude and that of all other sports apart from tennis, where Bermuda No 1 Tariq Simons pocketed $1,000 for winning the MTM Masters Invitational.
And also we had Ajani Burchall becoming the youngest Bermudian to play in a professional football league, aged 16 years and 37 days, when he appeared as a substitute for Bournemouth in the English second tier on December 12.
Welcome highlights to end a most frustratingly unfulfilling year.