Laurie Foster | If you are good enough, you are old enough
Jamaica’s World under-20 double sprint champion Briana Williams and her coach, Ato Boldon, are talking up a storm about the 17-year-old’s prospects for this year. Briana, who achieved the 100m/200m victory feat at the championship event in Tampere, Finland, last year, is displaying admirable confidence in her ability to make the top three in the shorter event at the Jamaica Trials in June. This would qualify her to contest the 100m at the XVII World Championships in Athletics in Doha, Qatar, in September.
There is considerable speculation among the sport’s aficionados as to the wisdom of the plan, as it would place the America-born athlete in the company of the world’s best in that area. It is claimed among these doubters that she is just not yet ready for that demanding test. Some even say that Boldon is pushing her too hard at such a tender age. Somehow, that sentiment has been expressed before.
However, it should be remembered that of all the coaches of elite sprinters around, the Trinidad-born Boldon is one of a few who has personally been through the rigours of preparation for elite sprinting. Exceptions are, of course, the former St Monica’s Track Club and one-time world record holders, Leroy Burrell, and the immortal Carl Lewis. The two still adorn the staff at the University of Houston in Texas. Former athletes of that calibre must have learnt a thing or two about scheduling competition for the stars of today and the future.
With Briana, Boldon is just going the route of another budding elite sprinter to act out what he has experienced, and who can blame him. Once he has the support and confidence of the athlete, and he clearly does in Briana, it should be his undoubted and unchallenged responsibility to apply any legal means to get her to the heights that they both envisage. Foster’s Fairplay is in full support.
TOMORROW IS NOT PROMISED
Far too often, in circumstances such as these, the claim of being too young and/or too inexperienced is put forward. It should not be allowed to stymie or halt a desire on the part of both coach and athlete to be the best that they can be in their individual spheres. Also, tomorrow is not promised. Why deny her the opportunity, should she qualify?
One can readily cite the example of a 21-year-old and now double Olympic champion, with back-to-back 100m titles in 2008 and 2012, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who was qualified at the Trials ahead of the then World Champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown. The same “too young and inexperienced” situation was used to try and devalue and obscure the performance, but good sense and stridency on the part of her handlers prevailed and the rest is now etched in the pages of history – gold medal in Beijing a few weeks later.
It is only fair that Briana be allowed to follow the advice of her expert coach. He is the one who has constant custody and oversight where her future is concerned. His career as a sprint coach is still in its infancy, and so it is for his young charge. If they can be allowed to grow together with no let or hindrance, it could well mean another superstar in the black, gold and green strip with podium positions to boot.
The Briana Williams train is moving at the required speed and consistency to get to and surpass all the station stops the full journey requires. Let it not be derailed by sentiments which can serve to stifle her sustained success.
Happily, up until this point, there is no word from officialdom on the issue. There seems to be agreement that she is on the correct track and maintaining the right trajectory towards the dreams of excellence which are shared by the sport-loving public. One hopes that it will remain that way, as once she fits into that 1-2-3 scenario at the Trials, the selection process should follow as it did in 2008.
As Earl, who is an avid reader of this column and track and field expert, keeps emphasising, “Once you are good enough, you are old enough.”
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