Watson believes anything’s possible after massive PB
IN A semifinal that included former World and Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk, Antonio Watson showed no fear.
His reward? A first 400m World Championship final in his senior team debut that was the highlight of a strong Day Four for Jamaica at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Watson booked his place in the final by storming to a lifetime best of 44.13 seconds, defeating America’s Vernon Norwood, who was second in 44.26 (another lifetime best) and van Niekerk, who was third in 44.65. The South African also progressed to the final as a non-automatic qualifier.
It was a time that even Watson didn’t expect. But he says that his trust in his coach, Glen Mills, has made all the difference in his performances.
“I just went out there and executed like I have been doing throughout the season. That was the information from coach Mills, so I went out there and did just that,” Watson said.
Watson knew with van Niekerk in the field, it was going to be a tough ask, but he was confident in his readiness.
“Going up against them was a tough one for me because he is someone I idolise. But I always say that once you are out there, you are level on the battlefield. So I just did my part. I hope to go out there and do my best just as I have always done. It has not really sunk in, but maybe later, I will share some emotion,” Watson said.
National champion Sean Bailey will join Watson in the final after finishing second (44.94) in a field that included Olympic champion Steven Gardiner, who pulled up just before the final straight and didn’t finish the race. Bailey says that with the field wide open, he is ready to seize the opportunity in front of him.
“I feel like I have been counted out before. I feel like I have a pretty good chance. My mind is right. I am ready, I am confident. Anything can happen,” Bailey said.
Jamaica’s Zandrion Barnes, in his first World Championships, finished sixth in 45.38 to miss out on the final.
Meanwhile, the trio of national champion Megan Tapper, former World champion Danielle Williams and World Championships debutante Ackera Nugent all qualified for tonight’s 100-metre hurdles semifinals.
Nugent won her heat in 12.60, edging out American Masai Russell, who was second with the same time.
Nugent is grateful that 2023 has led to this moment.
“To be out last year and not be able to make any team [was hard]. I couldn’t run for a couple of months. To have a good season this year with a great bounceback feels really good,” Nugent said.
Williams, despite hitting the final hurdle, was third in 12.51 seconds – a season-best performance.
National champion Megan Tapper clocked 12.51 for second place behind returning World champion and record holder Tobi Amusan, who won in 12.48. Amusan was reinstated before the championships after the Athletics Integrity Unit cleared her of a whereabouts violation.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, Jamaica will have three athletes in the final for the first time after strong performances in their semifinal races.
Rushell Clayton, the 2019 World Championship bronze medallist, stormed to victory in a lifetime best, 53.30, the third-fastest time among the finalists.
Andrennette Knight was second in her semifinal, clocking 53.72, behind world-leading Dutchwoman Femke Bol, who won in 52.95. Knight found herself in the same heat as former World and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad missed out on the final.
National champion Janieve Russell’s time of 53.69 was enough to get her through as a non-automatic qualifier.
Earlier, middle-distance runner Navasky Anderson initially clocked 1:45.81 in his men’s 800m first-round heat, earning a spot in the Q Room; however, he would later be disqualified because of an obstruction. Subsequent heats had also proved the time not quick enough to make the final.