Updated 9 August 2008
Kerron STEWART, Jamaica (100/200/4x100m)
Born: 16 April 1984, St. Catherine Parish
Lives: Auburn, Alabama
Coach: Henry Rolle
Manager: Jukka Harkonen
Discovered by Jamaican athletics coach Raymond ‘KC’ Graham while she was playing football, Kerron Stewart admits that she still loves the game. Manchester United is her team, Thierry Henry her favourite player. But a look at her laptop – and the footage she has collected of top women sprinters - reveals how dedicated she has become to running fast.
Henry Rolle, Stewart’s coach now, remembers being impressed when she arrived at Auburn University, Alabama, in the winter of 2005-06. She had come from junior college in the United States after shin splints and a freak accident had stopped her progress in its tracks.
“We sat down and talked and she realised her faults,” Rolle explained. But he soon became aware of what a perfectionist she is. “I noticed on her laptop that she has so many films of great female sprinters, mainly Florence Griffith-Joyner, and she just watched and watched,” Rolle added.
Among Rolle’s early tasks was to make sure that Stewart was not tempted back into football. “Our University soccer team wanted her very, very badly, based on the skills they happened to see just playing around,” Rolle recalled. “But I couldn’t give up one of my best sprinters to soccer because of (the risk of) injuries.”
Stewart says on the subject: “I used to like playing soccer. I didn’t play competitively but I’m pretty good.” Does she still play? “Every now and then but it is something I would have to work on to be good again. It’s definitely there, though.”
Growing up, Stewart attended St. Jago High School. Her first significant successes came in 2000, at the age of 16. She won the U18 100m (11.95) in the Carifta Games, in St George’s, Grenada, and went to the World Junior Championships, in Santiago, where she gained a silver medal in Jamaica’s 4x100m team.
In 2001, she finished runner-up (11.72) to future World 200m champion Allyson Felix (11.57) of the United States in the World Youth Championships, in Debrecen, Hungary. And, in 2002, she was fourth, in Kingston, in the World Junior Championships 100m (11.53) in a race won by another future US star, Lauryn Williams (11.33). Also that year, she placed second in the Carifta Games U20 100m (11.61) in Nassau, Bahamas.
Winner of the U20 100m, and third at 200m, at the 2003 Carifta Games in Port of Spain, Stewart was selected that year for the Pan American Games, in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. But she suffered dreadful injuries when she lost an argument with a plate glass window in the athletes’ village. With cuts to a knee, shin and arm, she required 39 stitches. “It was dark, I was going down the stairs faster than I should have, and I walked through the glass,” she recalled. “It put me out for probably three months.”
However, Stewart was back for the 2004 Olympic trials, finishing sixth. She was chosen for the Games in Athens but did not get a run. “I went as an alternate,” Stewart recalled. “It was a great experience. It definitely motivated me for the next time I would come to the Olympics. I was determined that I wouldn’t be there to watch but to compete.”
Another interruption to Stewart’s progress, however, was around the corner. “I fractured my shin and that was another six months (out),” she said. By now she was at junior college in the United States. In 2006 she moved to Auburn University, Alabama, where she still lives and trains under Rolle. “My home is in the US, because that’s where I train, but home at heart is in Jamaica,” Stewart said.
Auburn University has a rich athletics tradition. Its alumni include Harvey Glance, Samuel Matete, Juliet Campbell, Avard Moncur and Leevan Sands “Kerron ran really fast in her first year at Auburn – 11.03,” Rolle said. “I said to her: ‘It’s not so much how fast you run, it’s how mature you are in the mind for the next level, and she has really worked on that.
“She changed her whole aroma – her diet, her habits as far as commitments, sleep. And one of things I noticed – she wasn’t a great time management individual when she first got to college at Auburn but she is great at it now.”
The results have been there to see in 2008. In Rome, Stewart emerged as a world force in women’s sprinting with her first Golden League victory. It came within a fortnight of a dazzling display at the Jamaican Olympic trials, in Kingston. There she recorded 10.80 to win the 100m and 21.99 to finish 2nd in the 200m, earning selection for both events in Beijing.
Stewart’s 100m time made her the second fastest Jamaican woman behind Merlene Ottey (10.74). Asked whether Ottey’s national record was in her sights, Stewart said: “I’m not aiming for that, I’m aiming below that. But, you know what, that is a great record set by a great lady, so for me to get that would be the icing on the cake.
“I grew up watching her and I always wanted to accomplish half the stuff she has because she has accomplished a lot.” Stewart still has posters of Ottey on the walls of her homes in Kingston and Auburn.
Rolle believes that Stewart has a massive future. “She is going to be a whole lot better,” he said. “It may be scary but I see her work every day and I know how fast she can run. She does not like me to put any stipulations on how fast but she’s going to run 10.7.
“Internationally she is very new. And that’s the thing. You can run great times but there are very few individuals who really step up at the big Games and she has to prove herself as one of those individuals. She can’t be somebody who has put great times out there and won a few meets on the circuit. You have got to be able to perform on the big stage. When you talk about female sprinting, 10 years from now she wants to be included in the top five.”
100m: 10.80 (2008)
200m: 21.99 (2008)
400m: 52.08 (2008)
60m(i): 7.14 (2007)
100m: 2000: 11.89; 2001: 11.70: 2002: 11.46; 2003: 11.34; 2004: 11.40; 2005: 11.63; 2006: 11.03; 2007:11.03; 2008: 10.80,
200m: 2000: 24.09w; 2001: 23.90; 2002: 24.21; 2003: 23.50; 2004: 23.63i/23.66; 2005: 23.77i/24.22/23.46w; 2006: 22.65; 2007: 22.41; 2008: 21.99.
2000 1st Carifta Games, 100m (U18)
2000 2nd World Junior Championships (4x100m)
2001 2nd World Youth Championships (100m)
2001 2nd World Youth Championships (medley relay)
2002 2nd Carifta Games, 100m
2003 1st Carifta Games, 100m (U20)
2003 3rd Carifta Games, 200m (U20)
2002 4th World Junior Championships (100m)
2002 1st World Junior Championships (4x100m)
2007 7th World Championships (100m)
2007 2nd, World Championships (4x100m)
Prepared by David Powell for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.