No Pressure: World 400m champ Watson sets sight on remainder of season with confidence, determination

By April 17, 2024
(from left) Antonio Watson, Roshawn Clarke, Minister of Sport Olivia Grange, and Great Britain's Zharnel Hughes share lens time. (from left) Antonio Watson, Roshawn Clarke, Minister of Sport Olivia Grange, and Great Britain's Zharnel Hughes share lens time. Contributed

As the track and field season prepares to hit high gear, the performances of reigning World 400m champion Antonio Watson is among those that will attract some degree of interest, as Jamaican sporting enthusiasts, in particularly, have harboured hopes that he can repeat his gold medal-winning feat at this Summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

But amidst the anticipation and scrutiny of track and field fans, who often accept nothing short of excellence, Watson remains unfazed, exuding an aura of calm and confidence that all but indicates his readiness for the tasks ahead.

In fact, Watson in sharing his outlook for the business end of the season, revealed a mindset rooted in resilience and self-assurance, as he prepares to grace the track for a second time over 400m this year at the sixth edition of the Racers Grand Prix, on June 1.

“No pressure. I'm not really pressured because I'm just focusing on myself and executing my races to the best of my ability. Yes, the title of World Champion comes with some amount of pressure to perform, but the aim is just to perform at my best,” Watson said during the event's launch at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, on Tuesday.

 Antonio Watson ease across the line to win the men's 400m B final at the Racers Grand Prix inside the National Stadium on Saturday.

“I am still trying to gauge my competition form because I haven't run in 400m since my race in February, but I'm feeling good in training, so I'm just excited to go out there and try to ensure that my fans and my friends have a wonderful show,” he added.

Interestingly, it was at the Racers Grand Prix that Watson broke the 45-second barrier for the first time in his career, and from there, he went on to top a quality World Championships field, with a new personal best 44.13s, in Budapest.

With that in mind, the 22-year-old has every reason to be confident, especially after proving that he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Apart from the pedestrian 46.10s he clocked in February, Watson also had a 200m breeze at the Velocity Fest in March, where he clocked 20.84s.

“Well, I'm very excited about it. It's my second year competing at Racers Grand Prix, and I enjoyed last year, so I just want to go out there this year again and put on another good show. My training has been good, I’ve been working on a lot of things over the past few weeks, getting them right, so I'm really excited to just go out there and perform, as the aim for this season is to lower my personal best, obviously, and also get more silverware this season,” he declared.

Despite his achievements, over the past year, Watson remains humble and grounded, never allowing room for complacency or even to underestimate his opponents. This, as he won’t be facing a field of the World Championships or Olympic Games quality, but still views other competitors as equals.

Along with Watson, the 400m field for the Racers Grand Prix includes, American Champion Allison, Nigerian NCAA champion Emmanuel Bamidele, Demish Gaye, Zandrion Barnes and Javon Francis.

“For me, everyone is a threat because just like how I popped up last year, anyone can come out here and pop up this year. So I'm not downgrading anyone, these are good athletes Champion Allison is a sub-44 man, so too is Bamidele from Nigeria.

“So it's a good field and I am looking forward to competing against them. It's going to be a big race and one that sets me up for trials and possibly the Olympics after. So it's going to be a very important race for me and I am just trying to go out there, perform to my best and hopefully get a great time,” Watson shared.

While the rigors of training under celebrated coach Glen Mills at Racers Track Club can sometimes be overwhelming, Watson is unflinching in his desire to achieve excellence and, as such, leaves no stone unturned, as he braces for the challenges to come in the quest for greatness.

“For me, hearing from coach daily really boosts me. He always has encouraging words and when I'm not performing or training to my best, he always points it out. So, for me it's good and also can be stressful at times, but coach says I'm on the right path, so I'm just sticking to the path that I am on, and hopefully I can better it,” Watson reasoned.

“So, once I turn up at training, I'm ready to train, sometimes, it's hard to be focused for a million and one reasons, but as a professional, you have to know that it is time for you to be focused. So, I always try to stay locked in, and I have a good team around me that keeps me focused and ensures that I'm ready,” he ended.

 

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

Related items

  • Toni-Ann Williams excited to lead Jamaica gymnastics into the future as Technical Director Toni-Ann Williams excited to lead Jamaica gymnastics into the future as Technical Director

    History-making Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams has expressed her excitement and optimism at being appointed Technical Director of the Jamaica Gymnastics Association. Nicole Grant, the association’s president made the announcement this past weekend about the appointment of Williams, who in 2016 became the first ever gymnast to represent the country at an Olympic Games.

    In an exclusive interview with Sportsmax.TV, Williams detailed her vision for the future of the sport in Jamaica.

    “Yeah, I'm really excited about the position,” Williams shared. “I think it's something we've not had before in the organization, especially when I started there. I want to be able to bring a level, a little more organization, a little more direction, put some values and some motives behind the organization.”

    Williams, 28, is determined to leverage her extensive experience and educational background—including degrees in Legal Studies, Social Welfare, and a Master’s in Sports Ethics and Integrity—to enhance the structure and support within the association. “I think before, we've had really great representatives of the movement, but I think now we have more people supporting Jamaica gymnastics to be able to facilitate from the smallest things, helping to make sure they get to their hotel on time, and who's able to go to competitions and, you know, to the big things, like, you know, helping to find funding and things like that.”

    Reflecting on her own journey, Williams is committed to giving back to the sport and aiding its development in Jamaica. “Being able to have a support system, especially from people who've been there, done that, is, I would have really appreciated as an athlete. And so this is my way of being able to give back to the athletes and being able to help Jamaica gymnastics get to the vision that we see.”

    Adding to the excitement, the appointment of her former coach, Mladen Stefanov, a former Bulgarian Olympic gymnast, as Head Coach, promises to further elevate Jamaica’s gymnastics program. “Mladen has been the head coach on and off throughout the years, even since when I was a gymnast, and he always brings such a great energy. All the athletes from past and present love working with him,” said Williams.

    Williams and Stefanov’s combined expertise is expected to drive significant advancements. “We already have a great foundation, so we communicate super well, and he understands, obviously, the technical coaching side, and I being able to bring my experience as an athlete, so both of our experiences come together really well, and being able to help the athletes and being able to figure out what's best for what competition should we go to, what skills work, what routines don't work and that's not something we've had before.”

      

    Looking ahead, Williams is hopeful about the potential for growth despite the resource challenges. “Of course, we have a long way coming, and, of course, we need more resources, but being able to have people like myself being able to help Nicole Grant, being able to pilot these initiatives, I'm really excited about, and really, I think it's really great for the future of Jamaica Gymnastics.”

    Williams believes this strategic leadership is a crucial step towards elevating Jamaica’s presence in the gymnastics world. “We have a lot of powerhouses like USA and Brazil; of course, they have the resources, but they also have people who know the sport really well and have people that support. And I think that's a great start for Jamaica, to start having people in the corner who understand the sport, understand what's needed, understand the athlete's point of view, to be able to support them, and hopefully that's a step forward towards more resources and more opportunities for the athletes,” she opined.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Zandre Roye and Mattea Issa claim National Amateur Golf titles Zandre Roye and Mattea Issa claim National Amateur Golf titles

    Zandre Roye and Mattea Issa were crowned national amateur golf champions on Sunday at the Caymanas Golf Course in St. Catherine after three challenging rounds.

    Both golfers are first time champions. Issa won by seven shots while Roye won by four after posting his best score in the final round.

    Roye matched his first round four birdies but only had two bogeys to close the round on two under par 70 after scoring one under 35 for the front nine and another one under par 35 for the back nine.

    His birdies came on holes number two, six, seventeen and eighteen while the bogeys were on holes four and sixteen. His three-round scores were one under par 71, five over par 77 and 70 for a total of three over par 219.

    He was pleased with copping his first national championship after getting close on several occasions.

    “Coming into this tournament year after year and seeing the trophy and wondering when I am going to get my name on it and its just my time now," he said.

    “The course conditions were a little bit tricky out there with it being so dry but we are used to the conditions. I think I manage the game today out of all three days, pretty well. The putting was just not there this weekend but I hit a lot of greens and that helped a lot,” Roye added.

    2022 national champion Oshae Haye moved from third place on the first and second day to end the in second place, four shots behind Roye. Haye posted scores of three over par on day one and two respectively and one over par 73 on the final day for a combined score of seven over par 223.

    Junior golfer Trey Williams performed very well in the championship after taking over the lead at the end of the second round with a one under par 71 but was pegged back in the final round with four over par 76 in the third round. His total score of eight over par 224 included 77 in the first round, to be one stroke off the runner-up spot.

    First time national female champion Mattea Issa got the better of many-time national champion Jodi Munn Barrow to win by seven shots.

    Issa's final day scorecard showed three birdies, six bogeys and two double bogeys for seven over par 79.

    Her first and second round scores were nine over par 81 on each day for a combined score of 25 over par 241. Munn-Barrow's scores were 84, 81 and 83 for a total of 32 over par 248, for the runner-up spot.

    "It feels really good. I am really happy. I am very happy for the win but diving deeper more into my game I wish I have played better. I have been playing really well recently and I am not sure if it’s the combination of the conditions, it’s very dry at the moment, the greens are in the best shape so I just have to figure out how I can properly play the course because I know that everybody had a difficult time this weekend. So, I just have to analyze that and keep on progressing and keep on getting better," said a very pleased Issa. 

    Another former national champion Sean Morris copped the trophy for the national senior champion on the back of scores of 84, 74s and even par 72 to close the championship at 12 over par 228.

    The national super senior champion was Keith Stein 227 (78, 71, 78). Philip Prendergast 232 (72, 82, 78) bagged the runner-up spot while former Jamaica Golf Association (JGA) president Wayne Chai Chong 235 (85, 76, 74) was third.

    Munn-Barrow, the current JGA president praised the players for their performances.

    “What we saw was very good performances from all of our juniors in all of the various categories. So, it was a good week, the only disappointment for this week was the lack of sponsorship of our national event. I am hoping that next year we can get sponsorship so we can have an even bigger and better event.”

     

  • Jackson to compete in 200m at star-studded Oslo Diamond League on May 30 Jackson to compete in 200m at star-studded Oslo Diamond League on May 30

    Two-time World 200m champion Shericka Jackson will make her second appearance of the season when she takes part in the 200m at the Oslo Diamond League in Norway on May 30.

    Jackson got her season off to a winning start with a 200m victory in Marrakech in 22.82 to maintain a winning streak of 16 finals that dates back to June 2022.

    Having won Diamond Trophies in both the 100m and 200m last year, she’ll look to build on that opener in Oslo, where she will face USA’s Jenna Prandini, Anavia Battle and Brittany Brown, plus Marie-Josee Ta Lou-Smith and Daryll Neita, who won the 200m in Suzhou and 100m in Doha.

    Dominican Republic’s world champion Marileidy Paulino will race against world bronze medallist Sada Williams and world indoor silver medallist Lieke Klaver in the 400m, while the men’s event features Grenada’s multiple Olympic and world medallist Kirani James, world silver medallist Matthew Hudson-Smith and home favourite Havard Bentdal Ingvaldsen.

    Jamaica’s world bronze medallist Rushell Clayton leads the entries for the women’s 400m hurdles.

    The men’s event will a treat for the fans as the three-time world champion Karsten Warholm contests the 400m hurdles for the first time since finishing second in the Diamond League final in Eugene in September.

    He’s got some fierce competition as he faces Brazil’s Alison dos Santos, the world and Diamond League champion in 2022, who opened his own 400m hurdles season with a 46.86 win in Doha. Looking to challenge them both will be world silver medallist Kyron McMaster.

    After setting a world record of 74.35m in Ramona in April, Mykolas Alekna won the discus clash in Marrakech, surpassing 70 metres again with a 70.70m throw to beat Australian record-holder Matthew Denny and Sweden’s Olympic and world champion Daniel Stahl.

    That trio clash again in Oslo as part of a stacked field – one which also includes 2022 world gold medallist Kristjan Ceh, Andrius Gudzius, Fedrick Dacres and Lukas Weisshaidinger.

     

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.