The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year
A transformational year for the national beach soccer program, in which the senior men’s squad knocked off a major powerhouse at home, led to that team being declared The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year for 2017.
It was the closest race of the five-year-ending honors, as the team prevailed over The Bahamas’ CARIFTA swimming team by one point, and The Bahamas’ mixed 4×400 meters (m) relay squad from the world relays, by just two points.
The senior men’s national beach soccer squad made tremendous strides this year. After entering the year as number six in the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) region, and number 52 worldwide, Team Bahamas turned in an exceptional collective performance at the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 at the beginning of May.
The host nation failed to make the top eight at the global championships but there were a number of encouraging signs for the program, including a comfortable win for the team over an Ecuadorian squad that was ranked more than 30 positions higher, and a competitive battle against a Swiss team that was top 10 in the world at the time.
The Bahamas lost 3–2 to Switzerland in its first match of the beach soccer world cup last year, and knocked off Ecuador, 4–1. The Bahamas is now ranked at number five in CONCACAF, and number 33 worldwide.
Team Bahamas players were up against some of the best players in the world in the beach soccer world cup, and they held their own. The Bahamas’ top international goal scorer, Lesly St. Fleur, team captain Gavin Christie and reserve player Jean Francois scored multiple goals for The Bahamas at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
In the end, Team Bahamas fell one goal short of making things very interesting in Group A. Had they beaten Switzerland, they would have created a bottleneck atop that group, putting three teams with two victories each. Just the top two teams in each group advanced to the quarter-finals, and The Bahamas just missed out on that opportunity.
In their build-up to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017, Team Bahamas underwent extensive preparation. The team travelled to Europe, training with and playing against some of the top teams in the world. During its time overseas, The Bahamas recorded a historic victory, beating the United States, 1–0.
In February The Bahamas locked horns with the top teams in the region, and came away with a sixth place finish at the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship.
The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 was the first FIFA global sporting event to ever be held in the Caribbean, and The Bahamas became the first Caribbean nation to ever win a match at that global competition.
The Bahamas’ CARIFTA swimming team, which finished second in The Nassau Guardian’s voting process for team of the year for 2017, won its third CARIFTA swim title in the past four years. After not winning a CARIFTA swim title in the first 28 years of the junior regional championships, Team Bahamas has taken three of the past four, including last year’s victory at home here in The Bahamas.
Junior swimming sensations Lilly Higgs and Izaak Bastian led the way for The Bahamas in CARIFTA swimming. Higgs was the high point winner in the 15–17 girls category, scoring 65 points, and grabbing 11 total medals – four gold, four silver and three bronze. Bastian won seven CARIFTA medals – three gold, three silver and one bronze, and was the 15–17 boys high point award winner with 37 points. He has a four-year unbeaten streak in the 200m breaststroke at CARIFTA, and a three-year winning streak in the 100m breaststroke.
The Bahamas’ mixed 4x400m relay squad from the world relays, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Steven Gardiner, Anthonique Strachan and Michael Mathieu, won the country’s first gold medal at the world relays, the country’s first gold medal in a global event at home and The Bahamas’ fifth relay gold medal in a global competition. The team was timed in 3:14.42, which is the fastest time for a mixed 4x400m relay squad on record. Council member in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Bahamian Pauline Davis-Thompson is making a case among her IAAF colleagues for the time to be recognized as an official world record.
Miller-Uibo, Gardiner, Strachan and Mathieu brought tremendous joy to the islands of The Bahamas when they crossed the finish line in first place in that global competition at home, at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium here in The Bahamas.
The Scottsdale Vixens, which won a 13th straight New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA) women’s championship last year, finished fourth in The Nassau Guardian’s voting process for team of the year for 2017. The women’s national softball champions Sunshine Auto Lady Wildcats and The Bahamas’ mixed 4x200m relay team from the Commonwealth Youth Games, which won the country’s first ever gold medal at that event, finished tied for fifth in The Nassau Guardian’s voting process for team of the year for 2017