By Felicity Darville
Photographs courtesy of Stephen Gay
There’s a magical moment when you are on board a Bahamasair flight and you look out of the window. It’s the moment when the deep, dark blues of the Atlantic Ocean come to an end, and are immediately replaced with crystal clear waters made of the most stunning shades of turquoise. It’s a breathtaking experience¬—one that Shaunae Miller-Uibo feels every time she is on board the nation’s flag carrier. No matter how far around the world this Olympic gold athlete travels, she looks forward to that magical moment when she is back on the sunny shores of her beloved homeland.
Her family, friends and fans all adore her, and not just because she is breaking records and winning races at track meets globally. Shaunae has a sweet spirit that is evident in her bright smile. She is also quite humble—a virtue that stood out to me each time she responded with a shy giggle during her interview with Up and Away. She combines that down-to-earth quality with sheer determination, and together they have taken her straight to the pinnacle of her career.
Shaunae is the 400-metre (m) race Olympic champion of 2016, and currently holds unofficial world records in the 200m straight and the 300m indoor events. She also won gold in the 200m at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. At the World Championships in Athletics, Shaunae claimed silver in the 400m in 2015 and 2019, and bronze in the 200m in 2017. When Up and Away connected with her, Shaunae and her husband, world-class decathlete Maicel Uibo, were in Orlando where they are focusing on training for the next Olympic Games. The 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan, beginning on Friday, July 24. When Shaunae perches on those starting blocks in Tokyo, she knows that she will have the support of all Bahamians as she sprints towards gold again. The eyes of the nation will be on her with high hopes, a lot of prayers and tons of excitement.
“I always feel the support of the Bahamian people every time I step foot on the track; it’s always a great feeling knowing that I have their support and I am just going to try my best to make them proud and do as well as I can,” Shaunae said.
“We are very excited about the Olympics. It’s a championship that comes every four years, but it’s the same focus we are going in with this year that we go into every year—that’s going out there and doing our best training as well as we can, and just putting our best foot forward. We are very excited with it. We are doing our work now and when the games come, we will leave it all to God and see where everything falls into place.”
That laser-focus, and giving it her very best all year round and not just when she’s preparing for a big race, got Shaunae this far. And now, as one of the best sprinters in the world, she’s having even more magical moments—like when she’s draped in the Bahamian flag, beaming with pride after winning a race.
Bahamasair and Shaunae both bear the nation’s distinctive aquamarine, gold and black flag with pride, and the affection between them goes way back. Bahamasair is the airline that took her to Cat Island, where both of her parents have ancestry, during her childhood years. She knew that boarding the plane meant embarking upon an exciting summer filled with adventures on the beach and fun with family and friends. But there’s another reason why Bahamasair holds a special place in Shaunae’s heart: her father was a pilot for the airline. She was always proud to see her dad in his uniform as he headed to work. Now, the tables have turned and Shaun Miller is proud to see his daughter being an ambassador for Bahamasair.
“Shaunae is a jewel to The Bahamas,” said Bahamasair Managing Director Tracy Cooper.
“We are elated to have Shaunae onboard, representing Bahamasair and representing the country. As her father was a pilot for Bahamasair, we have always had some connection to the family. So, we are happy to have her.”
Shaunae first started competing in track and field when she was six years old. Her mother was a softball player, and Shaunae would run around the bases during her mother’s practice.
“I also loved running around the neighborhood with my cousins and friends,” she said.
“I always enjoyed running, so my mom and dad put me in track and field. Growing up, I ran the 100[m], the 200, 400 and 800. I participated in long jump, high jump and shot put… I have had a chance to do it all! I have loved a lot of those events as well. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I really got into just doing the 400. Before then, I was focusing more on the 100 and 200. I didn’t really like it at first. But that was the year that I won CARIFTA, broke the record; I won the CAC, broke the record; then I won World Juniors and broke the international record. So, we figured I’m really good at this event. So we kept at it [and] eventually I fell in love with it. I love every aspect of it.”
Coach Shaun has been molding Shaunae all of her life, helping her to hone her craft to be exactly where she is today. He is elated to see how far his little girl has come since the days she would share her Olympic dreams with him and with her mother, Mabelene. But their training did not only come in the form of athletics; her parents have led a great example of marriage and teamwork that Shaunae is now emulating in her own life.
Up and Away spoke with Shaunae just days before her third wedding anniversary, and the Olympic star said: “It feels good! He is the love of my life. We are able to pull for each other seeing that we have the same job. We get to see our ins and outs, understand each other’s struggles and support each other when everything comes into play. It’s a really great feeling having him there with me and, going into year three, we want to continue to support each other. We will love each other the best we can and continue to enjoy life together.”
Despite all the fame and glory on the track, this polite island girl with the beautiful smile actually prefers to be at home, snuggling with her husband on the couch and watching television. They enjoy playing with one another, playing with their dogs and competing against one another in family games.
She’s at the height of her career. She has fans all over the world. She’s loved in her husband’s country, Estonia. She could be anywhere in the world, succeeding. But Shaunae Miller-Uibo is still excited whenever it’s time to take a Bahamasair flight home, a place she knows people all over the world call “paradise”.