Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Stewart backs Russell for a hurdles medal

Published:Saturday | July 31, 2021 | 12:09 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica’s medal winning streak in the women’s 400-metre hurdles could continue in Tokyo when the Olympic track and field programme begins. This is according to Okeile Stewart, who coached Rushell Clayton to third place at the 2019 World Championships. Stewart believes that Janieve Russell, the 2018 Commonwealth champion, will shine in Tokyo.

Thanks to Ristananna Bailey-Cole and Clayton, Jamaica has won bronze medals at the last two World Championships. Speaking just before the start of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Stewart gave Russell’s bid for a medal the thumbs up.

“I always feel Janieve is a very strong competitor. I believe once she continues to believe in herself, she can surpass her personal best and I think once she is able to surpass her personal best, and continue to be motivated as I think she can be, she’ll be able to be on the podium, irrespective of what everybody else is doing,” he argued.

The MVP Track Club hurdler won the National Championships in June with a season’s best of 54.07 seconds ahead of 2019 CAC champion Ronda White and Russell’s fellow 2016 Olympic finalist Leah Nugent.

A week later, Russell improved to 53.68 seconds on July 3 in Hungary.

“I watched the 53 that she ran recently and it’s quite motivating for me, knowing that she’ll be there representing the country and I also looked at White, the last 54 that she ran, it was very composed and I believe that once those girls go there with confidence, they will represent well,” Stewart contended.

“However, I wouldn’t leave out a Leah Nugent who has been to a final before and is making her way back,” Stewart predicted.

Four women led by new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin have broken 53 seconds this year.

Russell goes to Tokyo as the sixth-fastest woman of the season and fifth among those who will compete at the Games. White and Nugent are 11th and 18th fastest, respectively, at 54.33 and 54.98.

Late yesterday, White was disqualified in the heats after a false start.

A medal for any of the Jamaicans would be the nation’s first in an Olympic Games since Melaine Walker triumphed in 2008.

Unfortunately, injury made it impossible for Clayton to fight for a place on the Jamaican team and instead of being in Tokyo, she will be watching her training partners Jaheel Hyde and 100-metre sprinter Tyquendo Tracey with keen interest.

“Rushell is a warrior and she would have really wanted to be there too, knowing that she and Jaheel, they share the same management team and they are very close in training,” the coach lamented. “Irrespective of that, she is motivated. She is looking forward to what can be salvaged at the end of the season and she’s cheering her teammates on,” Stewart concluded.

The women’s 400-metre hurdles starts with the heats on July 31 and ends with the final on August 4.