Bermuda Pacers Hall of Fame inductees Leslie Rookes and Terry Lynn Paynter followed in the footsteps of Branwen Smith and Sonya Smith and helped pave the way for the young female throwers who came after them.
Paynter and Rookes will be the first female inductees into the Bermuda Pacers Hall of Fame at the ceremony on April 29. Only a year apart in age, they both travelled to East Coast and Carifta Games in the 1980s, with Paynter winning two medals in the javelin, a gold in her first year (1987) and a silver the following year.
“I only went to two Carifta Games because I started late,” said Paynter who was at this weekend’s Carifta Games in Curaçao as the throwing coach for discus and shot competitor Tiara DeRosa, who broke the national record while winning bronze for Bermuda in the discus yesterday.
“Gerry Swan was my coach and encouraged me to stay with the Pacers. I did, and enjoyed it.”
Paynter names Laverne Eve of the Bahamas as an athlete she admired as a teenager. Eve was a discus, shot and javelin thrower at Louisiana State University from 1986-88 and helped guide the Lady Tigers to three NCAA championships. In 1987, she was the individual NCAA champion for javelin. That same year she also set the school record for longest javelin throw — 204 feet, nine inches — a mark that still stands today.
“Branwen had me at her house and encouraged me greatly, encouraged me to stay in it when I didn’t want to,” Paynter said. “She was definitely a positive influence.”
Paynter admits to being distracted by other sports, football and softball at the time. “Gerry was like ‘you have to stop playing football’ but of course I loved football so we clashed a few times,” she said. “He said ‘if you get injured, you’re not going to Carifta’.
“He used to threaten me all the time and in hindsight I do wish I had given up the football and just did track. I was doing other sports like football and softball, then cricket later. If I had given up the other sports I probably would have gone a lot further. But I enjoyed it, it helped to ground me. When you’re doing sports it gives you a bit more discipline.
“The East Coast meet was probably the best times in track and field, we had a lot of fun. At the senior level was a lot more commitment and hard work. I used to do javelin, discus and shot, my first medal at the East Coast was in javelin. Then I was able to focus more on javelin.
“Leslie used to beat me up in the discus all the time, but she wouldn’t come over to the javelin. Same thing with Tiara, she said she was going to try it but I couldn’t get her to throw the javelin. It calls for a bit more co-ordination because you are running and throwing.”
Paynter has a Level 2 coaching certificate in cricket, has coached football and now is the throwing coach for track and field. “I guess that’s where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “I’ve done a few courses in track and field so I’m on my way.”
Rookes started with the Pacers at the age of 14 and participated in her first East Coast Invitational Meet, placing fourth in the discus. She has a personal best in the discus of 39.26 metres and, like Paynter, had a Carifta gold and silver. She competed in five Carifta Games from 1984 to 1988.
“It’s all very vivid, I started out with the cricket ball throw and that’s how I was eventually brought up to the National Stadium to start training,” Rookes said. “In my last Carifta I was at Alabama A&M [University] and had to ask my coach to release me to travel to Jamaica.
“When the Pacers started I got my first trip when I was 14 and couldn’t ask for better chaperones and coaches, people like Gerry Swan, Cal Simons, Clive Longe and Pat Lake who knows everybody in your family so you had to act right.
“The trips even gave me independence, so I couldn’t ask for a better foundation than the Pacers Track Club for my line of work [prison officer]. When I start something I want to finish it.
“I have some great memories of the Pacers, one of my best is Chicago, Illinois for the Meet of Champions where while I was warming up I heard a snap and pulled a muscle in my leg. With my partner in crime, Terry, and Cal Simons being in charge, I had to hide it from him. I didn’t want to be pulled off because it was the leg I pushed from.
“My first throw in the shot was my best throw for the two events, so that was a highlight, something I can say was down to determination. Mr Simons didn’t know anything about it [injury].”
Rookes is also a high school winner of the Denton Hurdle Memorial Trophy. She urges young athletes to stay focused on what they want from sports. “Yes, we have all the distractions, but stay focused,” she urges.
“At training these people are going to be in your life, probably as much as at home, so look for those positive role models and just stay with them. They could be like a second mother or second father, people you will rely on to guide you. Because it [throwing] was my event, I do follow Miss DeRosa and she is coming along very well. I’m very proud of her.”
Paynter has seen some of the talented track and field athletes be attracted to other sports. “I can totally relate and I try to encourage them, especially the girls,” she said. “The biggest thing with the girls is netball.
“When I started coaching Tiara five years ago I told her it was too much pounding on her body. ‘If you’re serious about throwing then it is not going to help you’ and she actually stopped.
“If she sticks to track and field for the next four years she should make the next Olympic team. She just has to believe in herself and be a bit more aggressive. She is doing well in discus and shot.”