Chris “Fireman” Brown, the former national record holder in the 400 and one of the London Olympics “Golden Knights,” has not been selected by the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) to run the individual 400 metres at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing next month.
“It feels personal, it feels like someone is trying to sabotage this point in my career. I don’t know what the motivation is, but issues continue to come up for whatever reason,” Brown said. “God is good and he has the final say. I am not worried and I am not concerned at all. I know what I have contributed to the country and to the sport in all my years competing. My hopes are up and I feel good. If they decide that I should not be a part of this team, I wish them all the best moving forward and I will continue doing what I have to do and what is best for my family and my career.”
Brown, 36, did not compete in the event at last weekend’s BAAA Senior Nationals, but has run three sub-45 second 400m races this season and his time of 44.54 seconds stands as the second fastest time of any Bahamian this year, behind Steven Gardiner’s 44.27.
Gardiner took first place at the Nationals, breaking Brown’s record – which had stood since 2008 – in the process.
The top four finishers all went under the world championships qualifying standard of 45.50sec, with Michael Mathieu second in 45.00, LaToy Williams third in 45.30 and Ramon Miller ran 45.36 for fourth.
The BAAA mandated that athletes must compete at the Nationals in the event in which they expected to contest at the World Championships.
Brown was denied an exemption from competing in the 400m by federation executives and opted to compete in the 200m instead, where he finished second.
“My coach sent in the letter to the federation and there was no personal communication with me and the federation. For whatever reason the bye was not accepted,” he said.“The reason behind the bye was simply because I was trying to get in the best possible position to be on the podium for the individual event as be as ready as I can be to run with the same ability I have done so for many years. It’s been a busy year but you can’t deny that I have performed. Based upon my training and racing back-to-back many weekends, he decided he wanted to run me in something shorter. My recovery was a factor and of course being 36 my age plays a factor in that. He was hoping that it would give me an easier recovery time as we get ready to head back on the circuit.”
Brown was in the midst of a renaissance season which saw him deliver a series of impressive performances in his signature event, a pair of personal bests and one new national record.
In April, he ran 44.76 at the Drake Relays, followed with a time of 44.74 on the Diamond League Circuit in June and a season’s best time of 44.54 in May, currently the 10th fastest time in the world on the IAAF Top Lists.
Brown also set a national record in the 300m in 31.99s at the Birmingham Grand Prix, and set a new personal best in the 200m at last weekend’s nationals where he ran 20.58.
“It is a shocker to me honestly because I qualified three times. Went under 45 seconds three times, so I thought I would give us a good chance to medal and put our best effort out there but that looks like that is not the case,” he said. “Only one person in the country has run faster than I have. I would have easily accepted this had the three runners finished ahead of my times this season, no problem. If they had went under that time then I would have known that my sport would have been taken. But if you have guys that finish over 45 seconds and none has beaten my time, then you take two people that have run under 44 seconds consistently.”
While he was not named to the roster to compete in the individual 400m, Brown was placed in the relay pool for the 4x400m relay.
“That does not make sense to me. If your rules say I cannot compete then why would you put me in the 4x400m pool, how would you justify that. I can’t get,” he said. “For me, I hit the standard three times and I don’t know what else I have to do to prove myself.”
Mike Sands, president of the BAAA, refuted claims that the decision was personal in nature, but that Brown simply did not adhere to the rules of competition set forth by the organisation.
“The criterion that all the athletes were made aware of was to come, register and run the event which you would wish to run at the World Championships. All of the athletes came and they registered and they ran the event which they wanted to compete at the World Championships. Mr Brown, through his coach, I think a day or two before the event, submitted a request for a bye that would have excluded him from running the 400m. The executives, after deliberation, did not see a compelling reason, given the nature and competitiveness of the 400m and also the rules of engagements that were known to the athletes long before, that Mr Brown should have been given a bye,” Sands said.
“Mr Brown and his management were advised that it is a grave risk if he chose not to run the 400m because there were a number of qualifiers and potential qualifiers. The integrity of the national championships and the national trials had to be kept intact, so at the end of the day, the risk that Mr Brown took did not pay the dividends he expected and it’s a very sad day for us.”
Brown did not compete in the 400m at the Nationals in 2014 but was still selected to compete in the individual event and the 4x400m at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Sands said that mandatory competition at the BAAA Nationals is a rule that must be enforced to give the meet its proper prestige and place of importance on the athletics calendar.
“We have always encouraged the athletes and insisted on this, but we have to enforce it. You have to maintain the integrity of the meet, of the federation and you have to be careful with the precedence you set,” he said. “I think when the athletes come home and don’t run their specialty event, it also does a disservice to the Bahamian people that are actually paying those subventions. So, to maintain the integrity of the event and the rules and regulations that govern the athletes we have to enforce those rules. This was known to the athletes long before the meet.”
To that end – in 2016, the Nationals will be dubbed the BTC/BOC/BAAA Olympic Trials and in order for athletes to compete in the Olympic Games, the BOC has announced that it will be mandatory to compete at these trials.