Sat | Dec 14, 2019

J’can coaches top US 800m runners

Published:Friday | November 22, 2019 | 12:38 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

A Jamaican is among the world’s best coaches in the women’s 800m. That’s because Kingston native Derek Thompson tutored the United States pair of Raeven Rogers and Ajee Wilson to second and third in the recent World Championships, held in Doha, Qatar.

Thompson, who hails from Shortwood Road, described the World Championships result in one word: “Bittersweet”. Wilson, a world champion at the under-18 and under-20 level, and Rogers, a six-time NCAA winner for the University of Oregon, had excelled on the Diamond League circuit but Doha was different.

“Finishing second and third in the World Championships is a helluva achievement,” Thompson said, “but as the race progressed and it finished, I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t run one-two.”

The winner was Ugandan Halimah Nakkaayi, who barged past Jamaica’s Natoya Goule in the semi-final. That angered many fans, but Thompson reflected, “By rules and regulations, she should have been disqualified, but to be honest with you, I was one of them who was just fascinated with the way she wanted to win by any means necessary. I got a kick out of the way she raced.”

The silver-bronze finish for Rogers and Wilson was a coaching high point for the man who was once a defender at Santos Football Club in Jamaica. He left Jamaica in 1973, settled in Philadelphia, and after watching an age-group meet, he often went to training sessions held by a neighbourhood track club to run to keep fit for football.

“One day, one of the coaches asked me, ‘Hey, you come here every day and run around the kids, why don’t you help with coaching,’ and that’s how I started,” he recalled.


To gain knowledge, he devoured information on track-and-field training.

“I started to go to the bookstore and buy books and tapes, and everything else, and started reading about different philosophies of coaching,” he explained.

Wilson has been with him since 2009 and became a member of his Juventus Track Club.

“The beautiful thing I think about her success is that in failure, she never gets low, and in success, she never gets high,” he said of the 25-year-old American.

Thompson had factored Goule and the other Ugandan, Winnie Nanyondo, as contenders in Doha but admitted, “I didn’t see this kid coming at all. So, what I’ve learnt from this is you’ve got to look at all the athletes in the race and give everybody a chance. Plan the race why they can win and what you can do to beat that individual.”