Bahamas hailed Caribbean’s heroes

Caribbean sport acknowledged its greatest exponents in a gala event in the Bahamas last week – and what a magnificent night it was.

The second staging of the annual Caribbean Awards Sports Icons on Friday presented many challenges for the organisers Al Hamilton, MBE, and Frederick Sturrup, but like champion boxers they overcame the blows and delivered a knockout performance.

Bahamian Sturrup is a journalist and also president of the Pan American Caribbean Boxing Organization.

These awards are to honour all the great Caribbean sportsmen and women of the past 70 years. It was held at SuperClub Breezes in Nassau and was a glittering affair with around 240 attending.

Emile Griffith, former three-time world champion boxer, was one guest of honour. Also present was Bruce James, president of the MVP track club in Jamaica, home of stars like Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Brigitte Foster-Hylton.

Dignitaries at CASI2 included the Bahamas minister of sport Desmond Bannister and Sir Orville Turnquest, the former governor-general and deputy prime minister.

Michael Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, also attended as well as members of the Bahamas Olympic Committee, including the president, Wellington Miller.

A group of supporters from England turned up too.

Winners of each category were: Viv Richards (cricket), Clyde Best (football), Javier Sotomayor (athletics, male), Brigitte Foster-Hylton (athletics, female), Mychal Thompson, the Bahamian basketballer, Emile Griffith (boxing) and Mike Fennell for administration.

Biggest applause of the night went to Bahamian sailing legend Sir Durward Knowles who at 92 may no longer be an able-bodied seaman but his string of one-liners in accepting his International Sailing Extraordinaire Award entertained everyone.

The brass band Countess Pepper and Ensemble rounded off the night.

Three Cayman boxers made their contribution to CASI2 by boxing in Nassau the night before against local fighters.

CASI founder Al Hamilton, a Jamaican based in London, said: ‘These awards had challenges, there’s no doubt about it. The global downturn affected everyone. In the Bahamas their tourism is down something like 65 per cent which is the main source of revenue.

‘But I have to lift my cap to Frederick Sturrup, CASI’s regional director and to Sir Durward Knowles. Those are the people who pulled along with the minister of youth and sports and culture, the honourable Desmond Bannister.

‘They all worked tirelessly. This has been my fifth trip to Bahamas for the year to help it coming along. CASI is a two-year-old baby.

‘The time has come now for the regional administrators, the statutory bodies, the governments, to take a serious look at the heritage that we have for sports.

‘Despite all our differences, the one thing that really supports us in the Caribbean as well as music is sports which is really the adhesive that pulls us all together.

‘We all remember what it was like when West Indies were king in cricket. When people triumph, the phenomena created by the likes of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser resonates across the Caribbean. In England, where I live, when Bolt won again, there was no thought of individual islands, it was about the whole Caribbean triumphing.

‘The ethos of CASI is to say Usain Bolt is a product of a legacy. He has come along after the likes of the late Arthur Wint (Jamaica), Tommy Robinson (Bahamas), Hasely Crawford (Trinidad and Tobago) and Herb McKenley (Jamaica) who paved the way and set standards and set up the infrastructure in their homelands which he is benefiting from.

‘What CASI is saying is that we appreciate them and won’t wait to be howling at their graves wishing we had recognised them prior to them passing away. Sport has given me a platform to do what I do from England and as long as I have the energy, I will continue.’

Bahamas boxing coverage is on the opposite page.

  • Ron Shillingford’s press trip was kindly sponsored by the Cayman Islands Boxing Federation and The Flowers Group.