“You know Bahamians only like two things: Track and Junkanoo”
I have heard this a lot over the last year, but it didn’t really resonate with me until I went to my first CARIFTA Track and Field Championships. Of course, I was excited to go on the trip, but it was moreso to visit a different Caribbean island than it was to actually watch and cover the meet.
Grenada, better known as the Spice Isle, is beautiful, but the narrow roads and hills almost gave me a heart attack every day. My co-worker and co-host Ross, spent the first day getting to know the island and the food. Day two we had to do our traveler’s duty and get the souvenirs out of the way -then it was time to work.
Before the trip, we did our homework on the athletes and interviewed a few of them at the trials and others at practices once they made the team. It’s amazing the sense of pride you feel when you are in another country with only a handful of your people. It feels like it’s you against the world…well in this case against the Caribbean.
Remember when I said that Bahamians only like Junkanoo and track? On the opening day of CARIFTA, I learned that CARIFTA fans only like Junkanoo and track. We were driving to the stadium, and I kid you not, we heard the goat skin drums and the cowbells as we drove up the street. Walking up the steps, I saw security guards and fans from other countries simply mesmerized by our music. Naturally, I couldn’t help but to start that “semi-willie bounce” Bahamians do at Junkanoo. I spoke to a journalist from the British Virgin Islands, who said that if it wasn’t for the Bahamians and Junkanoo, CARIFTA would be quiet and boring every year. Here I am sitting under a tent in Grenada, with journalists from all over the Caribbean, and they are looking forward to Junkanoo, whereas a lot of my own Bahamian people, either don’t support or simply don’t like it.
Team Bahamas finished with six medals on the first day, two of which I was particularly proud of, because they were siblings of friends of mine [Kinard Rolle and Britni Fountain]
Mid-way through Day 2, a journalist from Jamaica joked that the Bahamas was going to leave Grenada without any gold. Within five minutes, we won our first gold (*Editor’s note: screw that guy) when Jyles Etienne won Gold in the U18 Boys High Jump. It felt as if a burden had been lifted on the whole country, and that more golds would soon follow.
There was another gold later that day that made everyone beam with a sense of pride. Kendrick Thompson, one of the two Bahamian athletes in the Octathlon, came 7th in his last event, after leading for much of the competition. Despite that, it was soon announced that he had won gold, and his teammate, Ken Mullings, took bronze.
Afterwards, the next half hour felt like a blur, and that’s not a pun because the – the 4 x 1 relays were that fast. Imagine having to run back and forth taking pictures, interviewing winners and getting times in the span of minutes before the next race (*Editor’s note: also called journalism). This was one of many times in my life that I wished I was the Flash. I found a new disdain for Jamaica that night, as we finished second to Jamaica in every relay. Every single.one. As always, the day was brightened by the random bursts of Junkanoo music.
You’re all familiar with the effect Drake and Rick Ross had on pop culture with the phrase [Y]ou [O]nly [L]ive [O]nce. Well that perfectly explains why I sleep so little in Grenada, and I missed the third gold the Bahamas won. This time it would come in the U18 Long Jump by Devaughn Whyms.
The event I was looking forward to for the most, was the U18 Girls 100 Meter Hurdles, because Charisma Taylor was one of the athletes I interviewed to before the trip. She was leading the race, and on the 7th or 8th hurdle, she tripped, fell and wasn’t able to finish. We were so shocked and hurt, we didn’t realize for about two real minutes, a legit 120 seconds, that Sasha Wells won silver. To cap an amazing story, Charisma immediately went to the Triple Jump after her hurdle loss, and won gold.
When it comes to stories however, none was more memorable than Benjamin Najman in the U20 Boys 5,000 Meter run. He led for the entire race, and was so good in it, when he actually finished, the officials thought he had one more lap to run. I respect Benjamin to this day, because instead of panicking and running another lap (after he had already taken off his shoes), he pointed to his watch and told the officials that he has been running this race his entire life and he knows his time. The official doubled down with the notion that Najman did not finish the race, but thank God for replay. After about five minutes, the officials apologized, and his coach, my former Commerce teacher Mrs. Dawn Johnson, walked Benjamin out to the crowd, and the entire stadium roared. Every country was happy to see justice done, and the cheers were deafening as he placed the flag on his back.
Again, my envy of Jamaica grew as they won most of the 200 Meter dashes, and finished CARIFTA with an insane 86 medals.
The closing ceremony was something to behold. The CARIFTA Caribs (the Junkanoo delegation) performed after the athletes finished their victory lap, but, like true Bahamians, our athletes ran the length of the track to join in the Junkanoo rushout. This led ALL of the athletes to join in. As I was shooting, I physically got swept up in the wave and somehow wound up in the rushout jumping with our athletes.