Gold medallists Williams, Watson lead Jamaican medal flurry on Day Six at World Champs
It’s been eight years but Danielle Williams is a World Champion again. And on the same day, Antonio Watson, a champion and medal winner throughout his junior career, has ascended to similar heights with his first senior global victory.
It was medal mania for Jamaica, which twice hit the jackpot on Day Six at the World Athletics Championships, capturing five medals in the space of an hour.
Amid the medal flurry, Williams and Watson captured the country’s first gold medals of these championships, and both brought their respective journey full circle.
Williams, running in her second consecutive World Championships final from Lane One, stormed to the line and captured her second World Championships 100m hurdles title in a season’s best performance of 12.43 seconds.
She had first won the World Championships 100m hurdles in 2015 and would have felt justly rewarded after battling injuries all season in her efforts to make it to Budapest.
Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho Quinn of Puerto Rico was second in 12.44, and the United States’ Kendra Harrison was third in 12.46.
Running at her first senior World Championships, Ackera Nugent, Jamaica’s other qualifier in the final, was fifth in 12.61 seconds.
Former World champion Tobi Amusan of Nigeria finished sixth in 12.62 seconds.
Williams credited her coach’s final message to her, believing that compared to the other times when she would get chased down, she would not be caught this time
“I came here confident, knowing I could win. Especially after Wednesday’s semi-finals, (I knew) that I could win. I had to put together a solid race. And walking into the call room, coach said, “All year you have been getting out well, and they have been catching you. This is the moment when they are not going to catch you”. I walked in there believing that, and this is the result,” said Williams, referencing her long-time coach Lennox Graham, himself a stand-out junior Jamaica hurdler.
Williams, who is now the first Jamaican to win two World Championships 100m hurdles titles, said that from the moment she started her campaign, she knew she was capable of something special and relished the honour of bringing home Jamaica’s first gold at the meet.
“You know it’s possible, but until it happens, you (can’t believe it). But I give God all the glory. I am happy that I was the first, and I know there is more to come. I know that coach told me I was in good shape because my practice up to this point felt good. This is just a testament to all the hard work I have done, all the people who stood by me and pushed me when I felt I couldn’t go anymore, so I couldn’t be happier,” said Williams, an alumnus of The Queen’s School.
First in 40 years
In his first senior World Championships final, Watson became the country’s first 400m World champion in 40 years, clocking 44.22 seconds for victory and bringing the 400m World Championships to the Racers Track Club camp.
Great Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith was second in 44.31, and American Quincy Hall was third in 44.37.
Jamaica’s other entrant, Sean Bailey, was fifth in 44.96 in his first World Championships final.
Watson chased down Hudson-Smith in the final moments and pushed all the way to the line to complete a remarkable championships debut for the former Petersfield’s High alum, who ran a lifetime best 44.13 seconds to win his semi-final.
The Jamaican said that his belief in being able to close the gap never wavered.
“I just believed. Coach says to just drive through to the line no matter what. He told me right before the championship even if someone is right there, just keep pressing. And I just kept my head down and drove straight to the line,” Watson said.
This latest achievement added even more spark to the versatile 21-year-old’s trophy cabinet, which includes the 2017 U18 World Championships 400m gold and mixed 4x400m silver medals, the 2018 Youth Olympics 200m silver medal, NACAC U23 200m bronze and 4x100m gold medals, Carifta Games U20 200m silver and 4x400m gold medals, and the Carifta Games U18 400m gold.
Watson joined Bert Cameron (1983) as the second Jamaican to win the World Championships men’s 400m title.
“It is a great feeling. Coach Bert called me ‘Mr Smooth Operator’ after the first round. I am just feeling great to be in the presence of such a legendary person and to join him,” Watson said, beaming.
The success comes two years after being widely criticised for celebrating victory by pointing his fingers, as if he was shooting, at a section at the crowd at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships.
Watson said that it made a difference for him to have confidence in himself and to have a key group of people who believe in him.
“It just goes to show how good it is to believe in yourself and believe in your coach and have positive people around you, motivating you, and you see the result” Watson reflected.
Three other Jamaicans secured medals on the day. Rushell Clayton got her second World Championships bronze, finishing third in the 400m hurdles in a personal best performance of 52.81.
In the men’s long jump, Jamaica got two medals for the first time ever, with Wayne Pinnock finishing second in 8.50 metres, while former World champion Tajay Gayle was third in a season’s best of 8.27m.
Carey McLeod was fourth, also 8.27m, as Jamaica had three competitors finishing in the top five in the final.