Danielle’s Olympic dream

Danielle Williams opened her outdoor season with two solid performances in the Chinese Diamond League stretch. She is in a good place going into the Olympic year as World Champion.  She is a two-time World Champion and a three-time World medallist, but 2024 will be her first Olympics if all goes as planned.  A year after winning her first world title in 2015, it all went wrong in the Olympic trials when she finished 8th. In 2021, she was fourth in the Jamaican trials and was taken to Tokyo but did not run.  For the second time, she will enter the Olympic year as reigning World Champion.  At 31, she has the experience and ability to make it happen.

Danieel Williams, 100m hurdle WC, 2015 and now, 2023! photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

It would be fair to say that Danielle’s 2015 World title was a surprise – even to her: “It was definitely a surprising victory.  I thought one of the Americans would win!  [Keni Harrison false-started; Dawn Harper-Nelson fell; Briana Rollins was fourth]. My expectations in 2015 were just to compete at the highest level, not about how I would perform.  I knew I had it in me to get to the final.  My aim was to get to the final and run a personal best.  I did that in the semi-final, and if that had been the end of the championship, I would have been elated. I pride myself on being the underdog.  I don’t like it when the focus is on me not because of any external pressure but because of the person I am.  I like to be low-key and just go about my business.  In 2015, the pressure was on everyone else; the focus was always on someone else, and I liked that”.

In 2015, Danielle won her prelim, won her semi, and won the final.  In the 2022 Worlds, she was third in the prelim and third in the semi-final but won the only one that mattered. She was not bothered and only made the final as one of the two fastest third-place finishers.  She was only one-hundredth of a second from second place in a race where she had made a mistake. She had reached the final, and it was time to look ahead, not back. Her manner of qualification put her in an outside lane – again, no problem: “I prefer being in lane two or three, even one – those are my lanes. I like being closer to the gun. I like being out of the way. I feel like lane 9 is kind of too far out there, and the stands are on that side, whereas lanes 1, 2, and 3 are on the inside, close to the gun. There’s not much distraction going on there. You can you can focus on yourself.

Danielle Williams is back! Watson takes the 400m (Day 6 Review)

“My thinking going into the final was ‘we’re going to get a medal’. It didn’t matter the color; we would get a medal. I was very confident after the semi-finals. I had a very good warm-up. Walking into the call room, my coach and I had a brief conversation, and he said, “All year long, we’ve been getting very, very good starts, but the field has been catching us towards the end. Today is the day that they’re not going to catch you”.  So I was in the call room and walked on the track believing that. I was saying to myself, “It’s going to catch me if you can,” because I’m going to get away so far you guys will have to come and catch me. And by the time you guys catch me, it will be too late. We’re going to already be at the finish line. And so that was my mindset going into the final – “you guys are going to have to catch me”. I had also spoken to my sister [Shermaine, also an elite hurdler]. the day before, she said I needed to race over all the hurdles because I wasn’t going flat out through all of them. I was determined to take it all the way”.

My seat in Budapest was more or less in line with the finish line, but I had no idea who had won.  Danielle was in the same boat! “I was confident I was in the medals.  But it was only when my name went up on the board that I knew I had won”.

Winning an Olympic medal against a stellar field will not be easy, but Danielle, with a PR of 12.32 and the experience of winning two global titles, will be in the mix.