A raw, uplifting story from one of the most important hidden figures in track and field history.
When Pauline Davis first began to run, it wasn’t with any thought of future Olympic glory. A product of the poor neighborhood of Bain Town in The Bahamas, she carried the family’s buckets every day to fetch fresh water—running sideways, sprinting barefoot from bullies, to get the buckets of water home without spilling. But when a seasoned track coach saw Pauline sprinting, he saw the heart of a champion.
In Running Sideways, Pauline Davis shares her inspiring story. Born and raised in the ghetto, Pauline fought through poverty, inequality, racism, and political machinations from her own country to beat the odds and become a two-time Olympic gold medalist, the first individual gold medalist in sprinting from the Caribbean, the first Black woman on the World Athletics council, and a central figure in the Russian anti-doping campaign. A casualty herself of the doping plague that hit track and field—she wouldn’t be awarded her individual gold medal until Marion Jones was infamously stripped of her medals for doping—Pauline dedicated her years on the World Athletics council to clean sport and fair play.
Running Sideways is a book about determination, faith, focus, and an incredible will to succeed. It’s about a trailblazer in women’s sports, not just in The Bahamas, not just in track and field, but on the global stage.
Pauline Davis is a former Bahamian sprinter who competed in five Olympic Games. After winning silver at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, she achieved two gold medals in 2000 at Sydney Olympics. In The Bahamas, Pauline is widely known as one of the country’s “Golden Girls”. Prior to the Olympics, she would shatter collegiate records at the University of Alabama and achieve a gold medal at the World Championships. She was the first Black woman to be selected to the IAAF Council in 2007. To this day, she remains an advisor to the track and field community as an honorary member of this council. She is also a senior official at The Bahamas’ Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture. Davis lives in Nassau, The Bahamas.
T. R. Todd is a journalist, biographer and novelist. A former journalist at the Nassau Guardian, Todd’s experience with The Bahamas stretches back nearly a decade. He also served as the Associated Press correspondent for the country. Todd is the author of The Man Behind the Bow Tie: Arthur Porter on Business, Politics and Intrigue and the award-winning Pigs of Paradise: The Story of the World-Famous Swimming Pigs. Todd’s work has appeared in newspapers across North America, including the New York Times, Huffington Post, Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He currently lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Foreword by Lord Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics
Chapter 1: The Starting Line
Chapter 2: A Pearl is Formed
Chapter 3: The Golden Girl
Chapter 4: Coming of Age
Chapter 5: The Crimson Tide
Chapter 6: Peaks and Valleys
Chapter 7: Fall from Grace
Chapter 8: Redemption
Chapter 9: The Pact
Chapter 10: Facing Goliath
Chapter 11: ‘Something Isn’t Right’
Chapter 12: Truth to Power
About the Authors
Davis debuts with an exhilarating look at her remarkable life and career, from her youth in the Bahamas to her success across five Olympic games. Dedicated to “Bahamaland,” the book opens with an account of Davis’s childhood in the 1960s and ’70s in Bain Town, in a clapboard house “miles from the [island’s] idyllic white sand beaches.” In spite of her family’s poverty, Davis’s “raw talent” as a runner got her noticed in the seventh grade and she quickly ascended in the track world, going on to excel in the 1984 CARIFTA games. After becoming a NCAA National Champion in 1989, she won a series of Olympic medals, including a silver in the 1996 Atlanta games and two golds in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In addition to regaling readers with stories from that era, she reminisces on the fallout surrounding American sprinter Marion Jones, whose doping scandal and disqualification in the 2000 Olympics overshadowed Davis’s wins, later inspiring her to join the World Athletics council to protect and regulate “mankind’s most fundamental sport.” While her narrative is bracing, most admirable is Davis’s unflagging love for her homeland: “Everything I have done in my life has been for [my] country.” This tale of determination will enthrall athletes and humanists alike.
Pauline Davis, a five-time Olympian (1984 through 2000) and two-time Olympic gold medalist from the Bahamas, may not be a household name to U.S. track-and-field fans, but her remarkable life journey will surely inspire readers. She was raised in a ghetto neighborhood with no plumbing or electricity; however, her talent as a sprinter was evident at a young age, especially because she ran barefoot, carrying her body in a sideways manner. Dedicated coaches and even a prime minister championed Davis, helping her compete in the Caribbean, at the University of Alabama, and on the international stage. With a competitive fire and unwavering work ethic, Davis triumphed over more than just other sprinters on the track. Her encounters with racism and political obstacles would have crushed the spirit of many athletes, yet she persevered to become the first Black woman to serve on the IAAF (now World Athletics) Council, championing issues like equality and anti-doping. A trailblazing citizen of the world and her beloved country, Davis eloquently reminds us that the difference between success and failure can be razor thin.
From the Foreword
Like many others in my sport, I was aware and have at times celebrated Pauline’s herculean achievements on the track. But it was not until reading Running Sideways that I had insight into the boulder-strewn nature of that path. … This is a book about faith, determination, focus, and God-given talent. It is also a book about a trailblazer in women’s sport, not just in The Bahamas, but on the global sporting stage. Pauline didn’t just run races and relays, she carried the baton for hundreds of young girls who dream of becoming the next Olympic or World Champion, the thousands of female athletes who compete week in and week out in athletics and the millions that are yet to come.
From the very beginning, the odds against Pauline Davis were overwhelming. But Olympic champions are forged from extraordinary resolve, resilience, courage and personal values, unimaginable by most and understood by only the few who have persisted in similar quests. This story, recounted from the perspective of an athlete from a very small country, describes the challenges, adventures, successes and failures, politics and cheating encountered by athletes prior to eventual adoption of athlete-centered policies and evolving sport governance principles. Pauline was there before and during this transition and, following her competitive career, became a respected international sport official. In this engaging book, readers will learn much about Pauline and her character, international sport and perhaps, in the process, something of themselves.
As a coincidental footnote to this remarkable series of achievements, I had the enormous pleasure as a Vice President of the International Olympic Committee to present the well-deserved medals to the Bahamian relay team members of whom Pauline was the spiritual captain.
Pauline Davis is a genuine friend who gives from the heart. I am so excited about the road she travelled, even with all the twists and turns. They made her a remarkable human being. I highly recommend this book, so others might be inspired by her life's journey from poverty to Olympic champion.
I had the pleasure of training with Pauline for two years. She runs the same way she writes—without fear. It's time for the world to know Pauline Davis.
I have known Pauline for years and have always admired her—not only for her athletic success, but also for her determination and refusal to quit on her dreams.
1/6/22, CityNews Radio (Ottawa): Coauthor T.R. (Jeffrey) Todd was interviewed about the forthcoming release of the book.