Prior to 1983 the Olympic Champion in Track and Field was considered the World Champion.
The Inaugural IAAF World Championships was held in Helsinki, Finland, the site of the 1952 Olympic Games, in August of 1983.
Four editions passed by, Helsinki, Rome in 1987, Tokyo in 1991, and Stuttgart in 1993 and The Bahamas were unable to win a medal.
The Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association decided they would offer performance bonuses for the first time in international competition.
For a Gold medal the federation offered $10,000; for a Silver medal $7,500; for a Bronze medal $5,000; and for any finalist $1,000.
This was also the first time that the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture provided any funding for the World Championships team, this time $25,000.
It was also the first time that the Minister, this time Algernon Allen, and Director of Sports, Winston Cooper accompanied the team.
Neither of them were told about the performance bonuses the federation was offering until Minister Allen was taken to the High Jump area, where at the time Troy Kemp was battling Olympic and World Champion and the only man to ever jump eight feet, Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor.
Kemp won with a jump of 2.37m (7’9-3/4”), the same as Sotomayor, but with fewer misses.
The Bahamian team and fans exploded.
This was The Bahamas’ very first World Championships medal.
Ten minutes later Pauline Davis captured the Silver medal in the 400m on her first try in international competition. She ran 49.96 seconds for a new Bahamian National record, the first performance ever under 50 seconds.
The winner was French athlete out of Guadeloupe, Marie Jose Perec, who ran 49.28 seconds and also won the 200m.
There was further demonstration of pride by the athletes, officials, and fans in the stadium.
The BAAA president, Alpheus Finlayson took Minister Allen to the IAAF room in the stadium where he called ZNS and announced that The Bahamas Government would provide the performance bonuses.
That evening the team, officials, and fans celebrated. When the plan was made to hold the celebration there was no thought that we would have been celebrating the first IAAF World Championship medals for The Bahamas.
Several days later The Bahamas 4x100m Women’s relay team comprised of Eldece Clarke, Debbie Ferguson, Savetheda Fynes, and Pauline Davis finised in fourth place in a time of 43.14 seconds behind the USA, Jamaica, and Germany. They had run a new National record of 42.74 seconds in the semi-final.
Chandra Sturrup was an alternate on the team.
The performances in Gothenburg, Sweden, twenty years ago this Saturday, August 8th, also led to the Government Subvention program which was instituted the next year for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
August 8th, 1995 is a day in Bahamian International Track & Field that should never be forgotten.