By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
ABACONIAN Steven Gardiner, dubbed the “boy wonder dream kid” by his new coach George Cleare, moved from the ninth fastest Bahamian to the fourth in a span of just one week as he dropped his personal best time from 44.98 on June 6 to 44.64 yesterday to complete a pair of victories that now has his name sprawling through the international circuit.
While his initial win came at the Star Athletics Sprint Classic in Montverde, Florida, on Saturday where a few other Bahamians participated, Gardiner’s latest feat was recorded at his debut in the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Bislett where he competed alongside high jumper Donald Thomas, who finished at the bottom of the 11-man field with a leap of 2:20 metres, or 7-feet, 2 1/2-inches.
In posting the eighth fastest time so far for the year and the second by a Bahamian behind 36-year-old veteran Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown, who did 44.51 in Eugene, Oregon on May 30, Gardiner ran away from the field in Oslo as his nearest rival Matthew Hudson-Smith from Great Britain could only mustre a time of 45.09, followed by the Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslak in 45.39.
Incidentally, the Oslo meet was the one that 36-year-old Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown, then at the age of 30, lowered his national record to 44.40 for the fastest time by a Bahamian. He has posted nine of the fastest times by a Bahamian. However, only former retired national record holder Avard Moncur, who did 44.45 in Madrid, Spain on July 7, 2001 and Andretti Bain, who did 44.62 in Des Moines on June 14, 2008, have ran faster than Gardiner.
As the youngest of all the Bahamians to dip under the 45-second barrier at 19, Gardiner can enjoy the fact that his achievement comes as he only just began his professional career. And having made the transition all the way from a junior athlete, who has bypassed the collegiate road to glory, Gardiner’s accomplishment came as coach Cleare celebrated his 42nd birthday.
“It was a good birthday present,” said Cleare, who sang the praises of Gardiner, who was unavailable for comment. “At 19, that’s crazy.”
Preparing for his 20th birthday on September 12, the tall slender Gardiner rose to the national spotlight when he posted his personal best time of 20.66 in the 200m and went into international spotlight when he finished third in his semi-final heat of the 200m at the IAAF World Junior Championships last year. But Cleare, who took over the coaching chores from the Rev Anthony Williams of Moore’s Island last year, said the sky is the limit for Gardiner.
“Right now he’s still on a developmental programme and when I say developmental, we’re taking into consideration that this is his first year of training at this level,” Cleare said. “Last year he was training more at a high school level and so we are mindful that we want to meticulously take a closer look at the load we are putting on him and the volume that he’s going through.
“We also have to pay close attention to his weight training and the amount of lifts that he’s doing and the type of lifts that he is doing because he is a very tall athlete and so we want to make sure that there are no muscle imbalances, so there’s a lot of science going on into what he is doing. Right now, the focus is not on how fast he can run, but the focus is getting him through that level of maturity so that he can run as fast as he’s capable of running once his body matures as he gets a little older.”
Based on his workout, Cleare said he was looking for Gardiner to run fast this year and although it was a bit cold in Oslo, he far exceeded the coach’s expectations in the sub-60 degree weather.
“But he’s on pace to doing some good things this year,” Cleare said.
Having gotten a taste of the big league, Cleare said they will get Gardiner back into the United States and into training so that he can come home and put on a show at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associstions’ National Open Track and Field Championships June 27-28 at the Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium before he gears up for the 16th Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada next month and the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China in August.