CROWNING GLORY: Miller-Uibo our Female Athlete of the Year

By BRENT STUBBS

Senior Sports Reporter

bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

Some things are just not meant to be debated. One of them is Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s crowning glory as the Tribune’s 2018 Female Athlete of the Year.

In a year that saw the emergence of some of the top female athletes like basketball standouts Jonquel Jones, Lashan Higgs, Shalonda Neely and Leashja Grant, swimmer Joanna Evans, tennis players Kerrie Cartwright and Danielle Thompson, bodybuilder Lorraine LaFleur, volleyball players Janelle Curtis and Brittany Bonimy and fellow track and field athletes Bianca ‘BB’ Stuart and Tamara Myers, Miller-Uibo was just simply sensational.

In what was considered a “fun, off year,” the versatile quarter-miler used her slender 6-foot, 1-inch frame to gracefully compile an astonishing unbeaten season in 14 outings - eight at 200m and four at 400m, with an indoor 300m victory in February and a street 150m triumph in May adding to the tally.

The 24-year-old Bahamian’s last loss came on August 11, 2017 when she took bronze in the 200m at the World Championships. But Miller-Uibo stormed back and dominated from her series of events that included titles in the high jump (1.70m) and shot put (11.48m) at the Bahamas Nationals as she demonstrated her versatility as her decathlete husband Marcel Uibo.

Her list of achievements included:

• Unbeaten across five events in 15 races (13 finals and 2 preliminaries), including a 200m/4x100m double at the IAAF Continental Cup

• World lead and three wins at 400m with the world’s fastest time since 2009

• Commonwealth Games and IAAF Diamond League champion at 200m

• World bests at indoor 300m and 150m straight

After winning the Commonwealth 200m title in April, she won three races at her specialist distance of 400m – including a world-leading national record of 48.97 in Monaco – and then turned her focus back to the shorter sprint.

She won at the IAAF Diamond League Final in Brussels and at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018, capping a superb year which started back in February by equalling the world indoor best for 300m.

At the end of the year, Miller-Uibo missed out on a hat trick of accolades when she was awarded the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean) and the Bahamas National Female Athlete of the Year. She was also one of five finalists for the IAAF’s Female Athlete of the Year, but was denied the triple factor when she lost out in the voting process to Caterine Ibarguen, the Colombian IAAF Continental Cup winner, IAAF Diamond League champion and Central American and Caribbean champion at both long jump and triple jump, who was the world leader and unbeaten champion in eight finals at triple jump.

Not a bad year for Miller-Uibo, who indicated that she’s just simply living out her dream.

“I always tell myself that when I fall out of love with it or I am not having fun with it, I will hang it up,” she stated. “But I’m having so much fun with it and I’m learning so much about it. It’s something that I always wanted to do as a young kid and now I’m living out my dream, so I’m really happy with it.”

2) Jonquel Jones

There was just as much commentary about this Grand Bahamian 6-feet, 6-inches forward/center’s performance on the court as it was off as she made a decision to take her talent to Bosnia.

After missing a couple games in her second season with the Connecticut Suns in the Women’s National Basketball Association, jones went on to earn the WNBA’s Sixth Woman of the Year honors.

The 24-year-old went on to help power the Suns back into the playoffs, only to get eliminated for the second straight year by the Phoenix Mercury.

Jones, the second Bahamian to play in the WNBA behind Waltia Rolle, raised eyebrows when she announced that she switched allegiance from the Bahamas to play for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the European League in what was clearly a financial decision.

The stamp of approval for Jones came at the 152nd session of the Council of Ministers in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Jones was on the topic of discussion: “Admission of Basket(ball) player into the BIH Citizenship.”

“The Council of Ministers of BiH, upon a proposal by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, took a decision on admission of female basket(ball) player Jonquel Orthea Jones into the citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” a release from the council stated.

The Bahamas Basketball Federation admitted that they tried their best to convince Jones to stay, but the country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe was offering a little more than the Bahamas could afford.

“We tried to stall the time and talk to her and let her know that we would do whatever we can, along with talking to the Bahamas Government, to get her to change her mind,” said Mario Bowleg, First Vice President of the BBF.

“In recent weeks, she came back and told us that her mind was made up and she still wanted to do this because it was all about her ensuring that she was able to make the maximum amount of earning that she could through playing the game of basketball all around the world.”

Before heading overseas, Jones made her contribution to the Women’s National Basketball team in 2014 at the Caribbean Basketball Confederation in 2014 in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

The Bahamas team, coached by Yolett McPhee-McCuinn, ended up in fifth place as Jones averaged a tournament high 14.0 rebounds, was second with 17.2 points and fifth with 1.4 blocks per game in the five games they played.

“Playing for my country was a reward in itself, though it was disappointing not to achieve our team goal of winning the gold medal,” said Jones, in an interview at the time of the tournament.

She is expected to return to the WNBA when their 23rd season tips off in May.

3) Joanna Evans

After falling short of getting on the podium at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia in April, Joanna Evans turned in a dominating performance at the 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia.

The 21-year-old capped off the meet by winning a total of four medals, inclusive of a pair of gold in the 200 and 400 meter freestyle races and she duplicated silver feats in the 400m individual medley and 100m freestyle.

In the process, Evans improved on her Bahamian national records in the 200m free and both the 200 and 400m IM. She also holds the national records in the 400 and 800m free.

Evans, now in her senior year for the Longhorns at the University of Texas where she’s pursuing a major in Sustainability Studies, the 5-11 Grand Bahamian out of Bishop Michael Eldon High closed out the year by setting the seventh-fastest pace in the NCAA this year in the 200m free in 1:43.93 for her second win at the Texas Hall of Fame Swimming Invitational.

Prior to that meet, Evans was named the Big 12 Swimmer of the Week after her four first-places finishes in meets against the nation’s No. 11 team, Texas A&M Aggies and the No. 5 team, the California Golden Bears.

Jones and the Longhorn will be back in action for a road trip to a pair of SEC-opponents when Texas face Auburn on Jan. 10 and Georgia on Jan. 12.

4) Kerrie Cartwright

From January to June, the Bahamian only female touring pro player enjoyed a successful run on the International Tennis Federation’s Tour where she competed in about 11 tournaments.

Her best showing came at the $15,000 Heraklion in Greece from February 26 to March 4 where she advanced to the quarter-final of the singles of the main draw and teamed up with American Kariann Pierre-Louis where they also got to the quarter’s in doubles.

Cartwright then went on to represent the Bahamas on the Fed Cup team that played in Mexico in June where she joined Danielle Thompson, Simone Pratt and Sierra Donaldson. The team, captained by Marvin Rolle, reached the playoffs where they lost 2-0 to Ecuador as Cartwright lost the second singles in two sets.

Last week, Cartwright returned home to participate in the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s annual Giorgio Baldacci National Open at the National Tennis Center, but she refused to continue playing because of a dispute over the seeding of the players in the Main Draw.

The 26-year-old was unable to defend her title after going undefeated in the qualifying round.

5) Lorraine LaFleur

After obtaining her professional bodybuilding card in Colombia in February, veteran Lorraine LaFleur went on to make her mark competing in three International meets this year.

The 11-year veteran female bodybuilder had her signature performance at the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness’ (IFBB) Elite Pro Montreal Show in July in Montreal, Québec, Canada where she the women’s physique category.

It was the first victory by a Bahamian woman in a professional bodybuilding and fitness show and it enabled her to qualify for the World Championships in Benidorm, Spain in November.

Her first pro show was at the Arnold Classic in Johannesburg, South Africa, in May, and she placed fourth out of eight competitors.