#Bahamas, October 6, 2017 – Nassau – ‘Strength’ can be defined in many different ways, because it means so many different things to different people. But at its most basic meaning, we are usually inclined to think about bodily power…muscles…and the state of being strong. Well if this is the measurement of strength, then Chief Petty Officer James Darling is the walking definition of the word.
Chief Petty Officer Darling joined the Royal Bahamas Defence Force as a member of Entry 24 on May 8, 1989 and has contributed much in his years of service. He has served in various departments such as the Military Operations Platoon (MOP) for some 18 years, Harbour Patrol Unit, Port Security and the seagoing Squadron Department.
He is currently attached to the Training Department which is home for Chief Darling as he has been a part of the fitness world for approximately 31 years now as a competitive bodybuilder. In a brief interview, he recalled how it all began.
“When I was 18 [years of age], I had my first show at a stadium on Bernard Road. Then I made The Bahamas team and we went down to Curacao and that’s where I got my first medal, a bronze medal in the Juniors. That was all in my first year of competing.”
Chief Darling admits that his initial motivation for competing was based on vanity, however, over time, it has developed into something totally different.
“Starting out, the sport was simply just fun and the girls, they always like a good body. But over the years, with every part of my body I worked, I tried to develop it and I became extremely curious about nutrition and what I needed to do to carve my body to look how I wanted it to.”
With a straight face, he said the sacrifices don’t feel like sacrifices anymore and that he stays away from bad habits.
“I eat as healthy as I can and don’t really crave anything anymore. I’ve been doing this for so long now, it’s no problem to not eat things I know I shouldn’t eat, because I eat for purpose and nutritional value, not for how things taste. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I don’t live a wild lifestyle, because I know how my body works and responds based on what I put in it.”
He continued competing and managed to rack up 2 championship wins before deciding to use his strength in the service of his country on the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. However, this did not deter him from his bodybuilding pursuits.
“After I joined the Force, I ended up in Military Operations Platoon [now referred to as Commando Squadron] and I hung it up for about 10 years until I went to Haiti for 6 months in 1996 for a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission. When we returned, I had two months off and started working out again and found myself back onstage.”
Some of his national titles include the Bahamas Middle Weight Champion which he won four consecutive years from 1997 – 2000, Mr. Northern Bahamas in 2007 [where he also won Best Poser & Most Muscular], and the Mr. Bahamas overall title which he won six times.
However, his success was not limited to local competitions. He has also seen success in international competitions. In fact, adding to his already extensive career accomplishments, just this year, Chief Darling competed in 3 separate international bodybuilding shows including the 2017 Pittsburg Pro Masters event where he won 3rd Place. Other events this year included the 2017 Toronto Pro Supershow and the 2017 Tampa Pro where he placed 3rd in the Masters.
As he continued to discuss his career, a few names came up such as Sub Lieutenant Delroy Dennis, Chief Petty Officer Greg Fernander (Retired), Chief Petty Officer Patrick Adderley and Petty Officer Kevin Dames, all Defence Force members who also had some experience competing in bodybuilding.
Currently, as the only professional bodybuilder in The Defence Force and in The Bahamas still competing, Darling says he’s grateful for the way the Force has accommodated his training schedule and gave an exhaustive list of names of people who helped him along. There was no way I could list them all.
“The Command has given me the time off which is what I need most to train, make competitions and represent the country and I really appreciate that. There were also people who encouraged me on and off the force. The current Commander Defence Force [Commodore Tellis Bethel], Former Commander Defence Force, Commodore Clifford Scavella (Retired), Commander Michael Sweeting, Lieutenant Commander Whitfield Neely, Force Chief Petty Officer Edgar Brown, Petty Officer Marvin Darville…[list goes on].”
After recalling names of some of the people who positively influenced his life, he was asked about his most memorable job-related experience – the one experience he will never forget, never wants to relive, but will never regret while enlisted on the Defence Force.
“It was all a journey, but if I had to narrow it down, it would definitely be when I was sent to Haiti with CARICOM 3 for the UN Peacekeeping Mission. I was a Marine Seaman at the time doing patrols in enemy territory. That whole experience will stay with me.”
When asked about possibly leaving after 31 years in bodybuilding, he said it’s not something he’s given much thought.
“I’m open to mentoring others, but I have to see that they want it as bad as I did or even more. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop competing. As long as my body responds, I’ll be competing. I’ll think about leaving the sport, maybe when I turn 70 [joke].”
He then commented on the future of the sport in The Bahamas.
“There’s plenty room for persons interested to get in. It’s easy to get into, but difficult to stay in, because it’s an expensive sport and calls for plenty discipline, having to eat a certain way and take certain supplements.”
He also didn’t fail to mention that he has a son [Jaye Darling], who is also actively involved in the sport.
“I didn’t have a chance to hand the baton down to him, he kinda’ took it from me. I sometimes give him pointers and tips wherever I can, but he trains himself, just like I did when I first started out. He’s currently ‘Mr. Bahamas Men’s Muscular Physique’ and just recently made The Bahamas’ 22-member bodybuilding team scheduled to compete at the upcoming 2017 Central American and Caribbean(CAC) Championships.”
Today, Chief Darling says for him, at this stage of his career, it’s definitely all about his country and it’s this love of country that keeps him going.
“I believe every Bahamian has something they can give back and contribute to our country to make it better. So for me personally, this is what I can give. This is my talent and I feel obligated, like it’s my patriotic duty to represent The Bahamas in the best way I can. The medals are great to come back home with, but I’m not chasing personal status, I’m doing it in service to my country.”
Feature Story: Chief Petty Officer James Darling
By: Marine Seaman Michael E. Turner II (RBDF)