Jumpers: Tyrone Smith. left, and Arantxa King, right did Bermuda proud in London. Bermuda Track and Field Coach Donna Watson is hoping they’ll both qualify for the 2016 Olympics and their numbers will be added to by other track and field stars. The last time Bermuda had more than two BTFA athletes at a Games was in 1996, when three competed. *AFP photos
Jumpers: Tyrone Smith. left, and Arantxa King, right did Bermuda proud in London. Bermuda Track and Field Coach Donna Watson is hoping they’ll both qualify for the 2016 Olympics and their numbers will be added to by other track and field stars. The last time Bermuda had more than two BTFA athletes at a Games was in 1996, when three competed. *AFP photos

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17: Bermuda came within a whisker of having two athletes qualify for the finals at an Olympics. Tyrone Smith and Arantxa King did the island proud in the long jump. While Smith finished 12th, if he had managed a legal jump on his third attempt, he would have easily won a silver medal.

King was unfortunate in not making the final by one centimetre.

Donna Watson, Bermuda Track and Field president, said Bermuda could have more athletes in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but the island needs to concentrate on those areas it does well.

Jamaica is known as a sprints powerhouse, winning 59 of its 61 Olympic medals in those events.

She spoke with Don Burgess about Bermuda’s prospects for 2016.


 

Watson said: “We are looking at eight people and maybe a few surprises to prepare for Rio 2016.

She said the familiar faces are Smith, King, Aaron Evans, Tre Houston, Jasmine Brunson, Shianne Smith, Shaquille Dill and Lamont Marshall, but some of the younger stars could progress to the point where they would be in contention.

“What we are looking at is for these athletes to qualify for the upcoming international events over the next four years. 

“The World Championships, which will be held next year in Moscow, Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games, CAC Championships and World Championships in 2015.”

She said these are events, plus the regional championships, are the ones the athletes need to shoot for. Watson said the team behind them need to be solid with a coach, nutrionalist and physiotherapist all helping them reach their peak performance.

“I have been in discussion with several overseas high level coaches who are very interested in working with our athletes.

“With us looking at bringing on a head coach these athletes need to be getting to track meets in Europe to compete against the best in the world on a regular basis therefore we need the connections to be able to find the best coaches, best training facilities, best track meets. 

“Of course, with all of this funding is going to be a must as there is a cost for coaching fees, accommodations, meals, training facilities, travelling to track meets, regular physio, any medical expenses.”

Watson said the BTFA is very grateful for the 100k plus funding it has received from Government and the assistance from the Bermuda Olympic Association’s Elite Athletes fund, but more will be needed to continue progress forward.

She added: “We are also looking at upgrading the skills of our local coaches giving our athletes the opportunity when they need to return home that they can also have the same level of coaching that they are used to and also if we are able to get our coaches to travel with the athletes to overseas track meets we need to make sure their skill sets are where we need them to be.”

She said surprises do happen, with a prime example being Trinidad’s javelin thrower Keshom Walcott who won Olympic gold in London.

Surprise

“Sometimes you have one of your youth athletes who surpise you and quickly rise to the senior level of competition.  We have a few young athletes with the potential and our path for them of course is the World Youth Championships, Pan Am Junior, World Junior Championships, CAC Juniors over the next four years but the athletes at these youth meets are running the same times and jumping the same distances as the senior athletes. 

“That again goes back to the upgrading of our local coaches’ skills to prepare our athletes at the young level to be competitive in their division and then you never know what can happen. 

“We also need to focus on our young athletes being competitive at the Carifta level because as you can see several Olympians are coming out of the Carifta Games — Kirani James, Usain Bolt, Walcott, Bahamas 4X400 Relay —  This is becoming a breeding ground for world champions and medalists and we need to get our athletes competitive at that level.”

Strengths

She said part of that would be focusing on what Bermuda’s strengths are.

Watson said: “In what events do we shine? We need to focus on those areas. 

‘When we look at where our medals are coming from right now and our qualifiers for meets we are performing well in the jumps and the middle distance.  Are these the areas of strength for us. Yes, there may be some other areas that we grab a medal in another event but the majority is jumps and middle distance. 

 “I really believe that if we follow this plan and really support these athletes that we can get someone on the podium. 

This is not out of the realm of possibility as you see a small country like Grenada coming up with a Gold medal at the World Championships and Olympics.  We just need to decide if we really want to put money into these athletes to help them to be the best they can be or do we focus on other things in this country. 

“I believe the talent is there it just needs to be developed and nurtured and we will see positive results.  The athletes themselves have to be committed also and it will only work if we all work together but it is not an impossibility.”