Pan-Am Games 2023: Out of pain, Leslain Baird gains historic bronze

Leslain Baird soaked up all the physical pain, being written off by some, and powered his way to a historic men’s javelin bronze for Guyana at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday evening at the Julio Martínez Prádanos National Stadium.

On his fourth attempt, Baird produced his best throw, a new season best of 78.23m.

American Curtis Thompson (79.65m) and Brazilian Henrique Nunes (78.45m) took gold and silver.

It is the first time a Guyanese won a medal in the event since the Games started in 1959.

Suffering a brutal meniscus injury two years ago, a teary-eyed Baird said, “I have earned this medal through sweat and tears and blood. Two years, I didn’t see this possible due to the meniscus tear.”

A meniscus tear occurs in the rubbery knee cartilage that cushions the shinbone from the thighbone. The meniscus can tear with forceful twisting or rotation of the knee.

Baird powers away another throw (PHOTO: Pan Am Sports)

Though he won silver at the South American Games in 2018, which still stands as the national record (78.65m), Baird said this accomplishment in Chile feels even more significant due to the high-level competition from the region and his battle to reach this stage.

After the bronze was confirmed, he collected the Golden Arrowhead from cheering teammates in the stands and dropped to his knees in tears.

The journey pauses recovery at this point after he competes at the Joint Services Games in Guyana.

His ambition is the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, which means he would need to shatter his existing record to reach the entry standard of 85.50m between now and June 2024.

Praising all of his coaches for the work behind the scenes, he said they will be working on changes in technique.

Leslian Baird and his Pan American Games bronze medal (PHOTO: Pan Am Sports)

Asked if he foresees another promotion given his exploits, the senior petty officer in the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard smiled and said, “I hope so.”

“I hope the President gives me a house and land…I have given back to the country a lot of my time and made sacrifices”, the 36-year-old added.

Guyana ended the Games with three medals following Jasmine Abrams’s (silver) and Emanuel Archibald’s (bronze) success in the 100m.

Twenty athletes across nine disciplines represented Guyana at the Games.