Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Bravo, Debbie!

Published:Thursday | December 5, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Hubert Lawrence
The Bahamas' Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie congratulates Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown, who tearfully celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's 200m final at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

 I'm going to miss Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie. After almost 20 years of high-class international sprinting, Debbie has called it a day.

The bubbly Bahamian moves off into the sunset with gold medals in the Olympics, the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, and memories by the score.

Wonderfully consistent in both the 100 and 200 metres, she is in a rare group who have reached the finals in both sprints in three consecutive Olympic Games. Slightly better at 200, she was 2001 World champion after the Marion Jones disqualification. That's her crown jewel, but she also has Olympic bronze from 2004 and World bronze from 2009.

She first appeared on the world scene as a baby member of a rising Bahamian sprint group led by Pauline Davis-Thompson. Debbie did a Carifta Under-20 double in 1994 and went to the Common-wealth Games for experience. She did the Carifta double again in 1995.

By the time The Bahamas won the 1999 World Championships 4x100, she was the anchor leg runner. At the 2000 Olympics, Sevatheda Fynes, Chandra Stirrup, Davis-Thompson and Ferguson did it again as Debbie held off her childhood heroine, Merlene Ottey. The Bahamian press dubbed the team 'the Golden Girls'. Now 13 years later, Debbie is the last of the Golden Girls to retire.

charming personality

She was more than just a long- striding speed merchant. She charmed fans and the press with her warm personality, expressed sometimes with her 'hi mum' greetings to the international cameras.

Press who covered her at the 1995 Carifta Games were warmly greeted wherever they would meet her around the world for the next 17 years. A reporter's delight, she always had time and something thoughtful to say.

Ottey, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce are undoubtedly the region's best female sprinters of all time. As World champion, Debbie has a portfolio that compares well with the work of 2000 Olympic winner Davis-Thompson, Juliet Cuthbert, Grace Jackson, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson. Throw in her 2002 Commonwealth sprint double and you will find that she is indeed one of the region's very best.

The last glimpse of her in action came at the 2013 World Championships. As usual, she ran like lightning to bring her team to victory in the heats of the sprint relay. The team was disqualified, but the last look was classic Ferguson - fast and focused on victory.

She leaves Bahamian sprinting in good health. Young prospects Anthonique Strachan and Shaunae Miller have three World Junior titles and some senior international experience between them. They also have a fine legacy to chase. If their careers are as good as Ferguson's, they'll have done very, very well.

Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.