By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
The territory’s athletes enjoyed remarkable success in 2017, with finalists in every major competition for the first time in the BVI Athletics Association history, including the IAAF World Championships, where Chantel Malone finished seventh in the Long Jump.
At season’s end, both Malone and Kyron McMaster, were ranked in the Top 10 in the world in their respective events—the first time BVI athletes have gotten such recognition by Track and Field News.
At the Jr. level, medals were earned at the Commonwealth Youth Games for the very first time and at the Age Group level, an individual overall age division medalist emerged, highlighting the BVIAA Athletes of the Year, which has seen athletes recognized annually, since the 2009 season.
Moving to the senior ranks for the first time, McMaster bagged his first Sr. Male Athlete of the Year laurels, with his stellar performance that saw him running the fastest time in the world in 2017 of 47.80 seconds over the 400m Hurdles. With the time, McMaster, a three times Jr. Athlete of The Year, became the No. 28 performer on the IAAF All Time List in the history of the event.
During the season, McMaster ran three of the four fastest times run in 2017. He won the IAAF Diamond League Trophy at season’s end, after being disqualified in the IAAF World Championships for stepping on the line. In winning the Diamond League Trophy, he bested all the medalists from the World Championships.
“I just kept focused, kept the body low on excitement, stay calm and keep in the vision,” he explained after the race. “This was technically a better race, but I have a blurred memory of the race. Based on the video I watched, going home I executed pretty well. I’d told everyone that if I got into the race, I would act as if it was my World Championships because I got disqualified. Why this was so important to me is because I got disqualified in the heats. We had the gold, bronze and silver medalist in this race, so it was just to show the media and everyone that doubted me or the prediction that came out, to show them anything is possible and I felt good to get the W.”
McMaster said awesome isn’t even the word to describe his 2017 season as some people would think their season could be better.
“I elevated to a level that I’ve never been at before,” he noted. “I’ve seen and conversated with people I’ve never converasted with in my life, so win or lose this event, I’m still content with my season and I would never forget this moment, even if I’d lost (the Diamond League Trophy race) it would have been devastating, but then I would have looked back on it that I was here and lots of people don’t get here. So my season was great overall.”
4th AOY Honors for Malone
Malone won her fourth Sr. Female Athlete of The Year honors since 2013 including a 3-Peat in 2013, 14 and 15—and fifth overall, after a season of highs and lows. She equaled her Long Jump personal best of 6.69m (21’11½”) during the indoor campaign before an injury knocked her down for two months in the season.
She returned to competition by winning the OECS Championships in Grenada in July, with a leap of 6.67m (21’10½”) to secure her fourth successive IAAF World Championships appearance since 2011, then went on to join Tahesia Harrigan-Scott and Ashley Kelly who was in London with her, as the territory’s third athlete to advance to and IAAF World Championships semifinal. She finished seventh overall after cutting the sand at 6.57m (21 feet 6¾”) becoming the territory’s first World Championships finalist since the BVI began participating in the inaugural event in 1983.
“This year was definitely a trying year for me and a test of how badly I wanted it,” said Malone, also a two times Jr. Athlete of The Year, as she reflected on her 2017 season. “From being in a new program and starting the season off well, then fracturing my foot. I was not able to train on the track between May and June. Got on a flight from my Doctors office to the OECS Championships in Grenada, a meet that ultimately booked my ticket to Worlds, making it to the finals and coming seventh overall. God, thank you for being my comforter and seeing me through.”
Malone said she cried tears from the devastation and tears because of God’s love after her seventh place finish. “I’m truly blessed for this accomplishment,” she said. “Coming to the World Championships and finishing seventh in the world, that’s crazy. I beat out 25 people to get to this spot and I’m just grateful. Grateful for my supporters, family members, my coaching staff—anyone that was in my corner. I couldn’t do any of this without them.”
Djimon Gumbs wins Jr. Male AOY
Djimon Gumbs capped off a magnificent season by becoming the BVI’s first Commonwealth Games medalist at any level since the territory began participating in 1990, when he earned a Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medal in the Bahamas in July.
Gumbs, a double Carifta Games silver medalist in the Shot Put and Discus Throw in Curacao in April, launched the Discus 56.24m (184’6¼”) to secure his medal, after fouling his opening attempt.
“First off, I’m giving God the praise for making me accomplish this medal,” Gumbs said. “Going into the competition, of course, there were nerves on the first throw which I fouled but my coach told me ‘to relax’ and I did what I has to do.”
His winning throw came in the fourth round and says it meant a lot.
“Winning a medal at this stage makes me feel that all the hard work pays off and no matter how difficult it could be at times, I always pull through,” he noted. “It inspires me to push toward my goals and never give up.”
Beyonce DeFreitas grabs Jr. Female AOY
Beyonce DeFreitas, the 2015 Youth Female Athlete of The Year, became the territory’s first Commonwealth Youth Games silver medalist, when she finished second in the 200m, to earn her first Jr. Female Athlete of The Year honor.
DeFreitas earned her medal after running 23.88 seconds, .04 off her personal best. She opened with 25.01 to win her heat and ran 24.13 in the semis, where she was second.
“It’s really special, because at Carifta (Games), I was hoping to medal and that didn’t happen,” DeFreitas recounted of her disappointment. “I worked really hard and then got my medal at these Games. My goal was to execute my race properly and get a personal best but that didn’t happen, but I still came out with a medal.”
Jaleel Croal, Youth Male Athlete of The Year
Jaleel Croal picked up the Youth Male Athlete of The Year crown, following his performance in the NCACA Age Group Championships.
Competing In the 13-14 Boys Heptathlon, after holding seventh following Day I competition, J Croal settled for 8th place overall, after amassing 4101 points. Croal won a bronze medal with his time in the 80m dash of 9.37 seconds in winning his heat. Combined with Malaki Smith, who opened with an 80m victory for gold in 9.22 seconds, it marked the first time that two BVI athletes had won a medal in the same event in the history of the competition. Smith placed 13th overall.
A’Keela McMaster, Youth Female Athlete of The Year
Akeela McMaster became the fourth BVI athlete since 1997, to claim an individual Pentathlon division medal at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Age Group Championships, formerly the CAC Age Group Championships, during the event held in Trinidad and Tobago in July. She also formed part of the territory’s fifth contingent to earn a team medal since 1990.
McMaster claimed the 11-12 Girls Division Pentathlon bronze medal as the territory’s athletes walked away with six medals in its best medal haul in the history of the competition dating back to 1985, as well as a team award. McMaster joined Aliston “Al” Potter, 1997; Dione Blyden, 2003 and Beyonce DeFreitas, 2013 as the BVI’s overall division Pentathlon medalists.
With performances in each event worth a certain amount of points, McMaster and Anguilla’s Cardesha Pemberton were tied for second with 2190 points heading in to the 800m, the final event of the Pentathlon. McMaster finished fifth in her heat and ninth overall, in 2 minutes 39.79 seconds, worth 470 points, while Pemberton only earned 271 points for 22nd overall in the event after running 3:07.32.
McMaster compiled 2660 points in her five events for the 11-12 Girls Division bronze. McMaster began the completion by earning a bronze medal in the 60m dash with a time of 8.31 seconds. McMaster’s points and that of Ayana Findlay, who won and individual 800m bronze medal, earned them the 11-12 Girls Team Division bronze with a combined 5180 points.
They joined Dion Crabbe/Leighton Smith, 1990; Dione Blyden/Jevonte Croal, 2003; Kanishque Todman/Britney Wattley, 2003 and J’Nae Wong/Arianna Hayde, 2011, as Team Division medalists.