Gemi Evans becomes first BVI woman Carifta Games starter


By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway.

BVI athletes at the 51st Carifta Games in St. George’s, Grenada, heard a familiar voice giving commands to start their race—the voice of starter Gemi Evans—who became the first woman from the territory to become a Carifta Games starter and the second person behind the late Patrick Harrigan.

Evans will remember the games for a variety of reasons but one was very special to her—starting the U17 Boys 200m final, where Tiondre Frett won the territory’s only medal—bronze.

“What made that bronze medal better, was being able to start that race for him,” Evans, who started several races and was also a recall starter, told Island Sun Sports. “That was an amazing feeling.”

Evans said her journey began when coach Ralston “Grandfather” Henry had a vision of her having an opportunity to attend the games and gain valuable experience. He contacted fellow coach Willis “Chucky” Todman, who’s also the BVI Athletics Association treasurer, and general secretary Stephanie Russ Penn was on board and “they made it come to fruition.”

“My interest for starting was sparked some 10 years ago, when I saw Grandfather walking across the track and he was going to meet Mr. Harrigan and I told him that I wanted to be a starter,” Evans recalled. “He told me ‘come’ but I don’t know if he was serious, however, I did join him and Mr. Harrigan. He told Mr. Harrigan that I was interested in being a starter. I got a crash course on the spot and eventually, the gun was placed in my hands.”

Evans said it was Harrigan’s vision for all the up-and-coming starters to eventually branch out to regional and international meets and not just being able to start locally. She said that there haven’t been many starters leaving the BVI as starters since Harrigan, so it came as a surprise as she’s one of the most dependable starters for all the BVI Athletics Association and school sports starters.

Evans was entrusted into the starter’s role with Saturday’s 400m semifinals. “I had a crash course with Jamaica’s international starter Ludlow Watts. He mentored me and we did a couple run-throughs and I was able to execute well,” she said, noting the higher standard than in BVI. “It’s different in certain instances. We don’t have microphones on the starting blocks or the electric gun. I didn’t have the worries of it jamming like the manual gun at home. The gun itself is lighter, the sound is way different. I noticed that some of the athletes who may have been accustomed to the manual gun, would be a bit hesitant coming out the blocks because they’re expecting a bigger explosion. The sound is a little more subtle than the big explosion and rapid shot you’d hear from the manual gun.”  

Evans also worked with Grenadian starters, as well as the technical team of officials from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

At one time, Evans asked athletes if they could hear her at the start of the 400m. She said that it was to ensure athletes in lane eight could hear her commands, when the gun is fired, and they need to come out of the blocks.

One of her assignments as an assistant starter was to give out one of the cards—red, green, or yellow—if there was an infringement of the rules.  “With technology, sometimes there are glitches, and we might ask athletes to come out of the blocks and stand, which is no fault of their own,” she said. “You’ll have to walk around with a green card to let them know that they are all safe. If I present a yellow card for whatever reason, that would be a warning that you need to check yourself. A red card would mean you have false started or have committed some sort of violation and you’d have to leave the field.”

She hopes the opportunity will open the door for more BVI officials to assist in different regional competitions. “I hope one day that we have more local starters in the BVI,” she said. “I do look forward to future regional and international competitions, so they could know that we do have those talents nestled right here in the Virgin Islands as well.”