In the land of the Fireman and the Golden Knights…
Chris Brown, photo by Jean-Pierre DURAND for IAAF
It’s been a months since the inaugural IAAF World Relays, but the memories about the Bahamian enthusiasm and hospitality and a spectacular track show are still alive. And there is one particular athlete, who definitely helped to make it all happen – Chris Brown.
As a part of the IAAF media project “Day in the Life” a group of journalists got a chance to catch up with the World Relays Local Organizing Committee with a about six weeks to go until the event, and to take part in Chris Brown’s homecoming. The Bahamas’ very own Olympic champion haven’t visited his native island Eleuthera for more than a year, and it was about time to go home – after winning another medal – the silver at the World Indoors in Sopot.
Literally, as soon as I landed in Nassau, I realized how huge of a deal it was. The driver in our car turned on the radio, and that’s what we heard: “The group of international journalists and Chris Brown will be landing at the Eleuthera airport on that day, at that time, and this is the program of their visit…” The host knew the program of our visit even better than we did. To say the least, it left us in a state of a pleasant anticipation.
Chris Brown, photo by Jean-Pierre DURAND for IAAF
But before getting to Eleuthera, we wanted to see how Nassau was getting ready for the World Relays. The most important thing was that the country really wanted to host competition. All stakeholders – the BAAA, the government, the LOC, were equally enthusiastic and well-coordinated. The brand new stadium, a gift from the Chinese government, looked spectacular under the clear blue skies. There was just one concern – the new track surface hadn’t been finished yet, which prevented Chris Brown from hosting his second international invitational meet this April. But, as you already know, by the time of the competition, there were no concerns left.
It is no secret, that Bahamians love their track and field stars. Tonique Williams even has a highway named after her. But the most important thing is that the stars are still giving back to their sport. Tonique, for example, worked in the Media Department of the World Relays LOC. The IAAF Council member Pauline Davis-Thompson and her fellow “Golden Girl” Eldece Clark-Lewis were actively involved in the event organization, as well.
Chris “Fireman” Brown wasn’t in the LOC. He had the most important and the most difficult mission: drawing fans to the stands and showing them what they wanted to see – a battle for the gold and, hopefully, the repeat of the London 2012 success.
Throughout his impressive career, Chris collected four World and three Olympic medals as a member of the 4x400m relay, since 2001 and on. London 2012 was, of course, the climax, and Chris, being the most experienced in the squad, played a crucial role in that success, planning out an unconventional running order, that mentally threw some rivals off. That victorious foursome of Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller at home is referred to as “The Golden Knights”. There is even a song about them, “Tearin’ Up Da Track”. While visiting eight schools over 1.5 days in Eleuthera, after an impressive welcome in the airport and a motorcade through the island, we heard this song and little kids reading poems about Chris not once and not twice.
In each and every school, Chris took time to talk to excited youngsters. “I don’t know how many lives I’m touching, but just to let kids see that dreams do come true – it’s a great feeling. Knowing, that I can inspire a whole generation behind me, because growing up I didn’t have a role model, is a blessing. I am looking to have an impact to an extent, where not just one Chris Brown can come off the Bahamas, I wish to see many other generations play the same role and be as determined as I am, and live as a role model and inspire the next generation.”
And he is inspiring young athletes, indeed. Not just by giving motivational speeches, but by actually running fast. He won the World Indoor silver with a PB of 45.58. Just recently, at the New York Diamond League, he ran a world 35-age best of 44.61. He was the fastest on the team at the Penn Relays, where the Bahamas defeated the USA, and second fastest at the World Relays, where they didn’t. “Growing up and hearing so many negative thoughts, I know how easy it is to break someone’s spirits and so many dream killers are out there. For me, it’ all about proving people wrong. Some people say, that after you get to a certain age, you should retire. And my job is to prove, that if someone says I can’t do this, to show that it can be done,” admits Chris.
Another strong motivator for the Fireman is his family – mother and father on beautiful and peaceful Eleuthera and, of course, his wife Faith and two beautiful little daughters: “When I step on the track, I also run for my family to make sure they are comfortable. The sad part is knowing, that I have to leave my family behind, they can’t come to every competition I go to. So when I step in the track, someone has to pay for it, I take it out on someone on the track, because its hard to leave my family behind.”
Chris certainly hopes to keep going until Rio. “I asked God to bless me with a healthy career and to keep me until Brazil 2016. After that I will be hanging up my spikes. I never thought I’d see that day coming, but it’s a good feeling knowing that I have given my best, I did it healthy and clean. It’s going to be a sad day, but it’s also going to be a good day, as I look forward to the next chapter in my life,” admits Brown.
What this next chapter will be about? He doesn’t have an answer yet, but he will definitely have some time to help advance athletics in his country to new heights. His first coach Michael Coackley has already initiated the construction of the indoor track on the islands, so get ready to hear more about the Bahamians year round. And after seeing such a dynamic, innovative and refreshing event as the inaugural World Relays, we all hope to see Chris leading the Golden Knights to the rostrum next year, in their homeland.
Chris Brown and family, photo by Jean-Pierre DURAND for IAAF