Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Sticking to old tricks! - Graham not changing approach in Olympic year

Published:Sunday | January 26, 2020 | 12:00 AMAkino Ming - Staff Reporter
Lennox Graham and Danielle Williams in training ahead of the 2017 World Championships.
Leah Nugent

The magnitude of the pending Olympic Games is not fazing veteran hurdlers coach Lennox Graham as he is not changing his approach to the season.

The man, who once coached his alma mater, Kingston College, to six consecutive Boys’ Champs titles, is sticking to his proven method of working hard to lower his athletes’ personal best times in their preferred events each year.

Graham, who coached Danielle Williams to a world title in 2015 and a bronze medal last year in the women’s 100m hurdles, believes if he can get the former Queen’s School standout, Kemar Mowatt, and Leah Nugent, the other two Jamaican Olympic prospects under his tutelage, to run faster than they have in their careers, they will pose a threat not only at the National Championships, but in the finals of their events at the Games in Tokyo, Japan.

“We are not just focusing on getting an Olympic medal. I would love to get them better than last year. With Danielle, we have tried to do that (improve each season) and have done that successfully most of the 10 years that we have had this coach and athlete relationship. She is always getting better and she is always seeking to get better,” Graham explained.

Williams has shown signs of improving this season already she currently has a world-leading time in the 200m indoors. She ran 23.13 at the Clemson Invitational last week and Graham believes this is a good sign.

“I am just grateful for where she is now because it is the first time in three years that she has been able to do something on the track. Last year this time, she was in a boot. It is really pleasing to see her get a personal best after six years of not running the 200 metres,” he said.

The 27-year-old registered the seventh fastest time in the 100m hurdles when she sped to 12.32 seconds at the London Anniversary Games last season.

The sprints and hurdles coach at Clemson University is also pleased with how reigning national 400m hurdles champion Mowatt has started his season.

“He ran 47 in the flat 400m last week and will be running this weekend again, so we are taking it a step at a time,” Graham said.

Mowatt missed out on a spot in the final of the event at the World Championships last year, but Graham knows that he has what it takes to get into the final eight in Tokyo this summer.

“We have to remember that even before I started coaching Kemar, he made it to a World Championship final (2017), so he is not new to performing at the highest level. It was great to get him to run 48.8 to win the national title but I am not satisfied because he still has personal best of 48.4. But, we are back to the drawing board trying to get him to be a better athlete and to make the Olympic team,” Graham said.

A nagging foot injury derailed Nugent’s 2019 season. But, the 27-year-old is back in training and Graham hopes that she can return to the form which resulted in her finishing sixth in the final of the women’s 400m hurdles final at the Rio de Janeiro Games four years ago.

“People might not remember that Leah was at the trials last year, because she ran 59 seconds. She had a foot injury that impeded her preparation for the 2019 Jamaican trials. We were reduced to running one day on the track. She was hurt badly and she spent the entire off season trying to rehabilitate. We are really trying to get her back to where she used to be because she is pretty good at the event but a race like that you cannot run with an injury,” he said.

Graham’s greatest achievement at the Olympic Games came eight years ago when Leford Green made the final of the men’s 400m hurdles and finished seventh. Williams failed to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games after winning the world title the previous year.