'I want to be the next great Ja hurdler'
Janieve Russell said she is hoping to become the next great Jamaican athlete in the 400m hurdles, and yesterday's impressive win at the Golden Gala Rome Diamond League at the Stadio Olimpico will leave little doubt about this becoming a reality.
However, the 2012 World Junior champion said she is not getting carried away after chalking up her second consecutive win on the Diamond League circuit and stopping the clock in world-leading time, underlining that the real test will come in August, where she hopes to emulate Deon Hemmings and Melaine Walker as podium-topping female 400m hurdlers at the Olympic Games.
PERSONAL BEST TIME
Russell followed up her impressive win in Rabat a few weeks ago to finish in a personal best 53.96 seconds - the fastest time in the world this year.
"Melaine Walker has been a gold medallist at the highest level, so too Deon Hemmings, and I want to keep that tradition alive at the Olympics. If I don't finish with the gold, I want to finish in the top three to underline to the world that Jamaica has a tradition of excellent quarter-mile hurdlers. I want to keep that tradition alive," Russell told The Gleaner after her run.
It's quite a turnaround for the former Holmwood Technical star, who now attends the University of Technology.
Despite a second-place finish at this very meet last season, Russell had two seventh-place runs in her remaining Diamond League engagements in 2015 and also ran fifth in the final at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China.
That in itself would have been an impressive performance for a youngster in her first major season as a senior, but what made it more impressive was the fact that she was competing with a damaged femur and torn cartilages.
Her run in Beijing, she said, was a turning point for her.
"I did a surgery coming from the World Championships in September and I am working really hard, taking keen focus on my coach's instructions, taking care of my body and my mind," she said. "That told me that I had a lot of self-confidence. I told myself I had a bad knee and finished fifth, so now that I have two good knees, I can always finish on top.
"So I keep pushing myself. I am not always expecting to win because anything can happen on the day because these girls are all very competitive and every one is going for the win, so I know I have to keep a free mind and try to remain injury free," added Russell.