Updated 9 August 2008
Shericka WILLIAMS, Jamaica (400/4x400m)
Born: 17 September 1985, Black River, St Elizabeth
1.65m / 51kg
Coach: Stephen Francis
Manager: Paul Doyle
It was shortly after the 2004 Olympic Games, in Athens, that the MVP Track Club moved in on Shericka Williams. Consistent with their policy of handpicking high school athletes who had not stood out, and who may not be priority targets for the best United States colleges, MVP saw Williams as a 400m runner with potential.
Already training under MVP coach Stephen Francis at the University of Technology (UTech) Kingston at the time were Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson. “We were trying to find kids who were 7th or 8th in high school championships, and who would not have had much opportunity, and get them to come to UTech - that’s how I ended up with Asafa,” Francis explained.
By 2004 Powell was having his first big year while Simpson, too, was breaking through, finishing sixth in the Olympic 100m final in Athens and winning gold with the Jamaica 4x100m team. In Jamaica, Williams was finishing third in the 400m and fifth in the 200m in the National High School Championships.
“That was my final year in high school and that was when Stephen Francis’s brother, Paul Francis, called me and said they would like me to come to UTech to train with them,” Williams recalled. “I’d had offers to go abroad to the college schools but Paul would call every other day and say: ‘You need to come to UTech, UTech is the place for you. You don’t have to worry about going abroad. You will get free food, free tuition, free accommodation, and everything for your comfort’.
“That was at the end of the Olympics in 2004, Paul called me because Stephen Francis was at the Olympics. Sherone had just gone to UTech and he said: ‘See what has happened to Sherone. She has made the Olympics, made the final, got a gold medal in the 4x100. You can do that Shericka if you come up here.’ And I said: ‘Ok, I’m going to come’.”
At this point in her life, Williams had no significant victories on her CV. “I was showing talent but I wasn’t on top because I had this girl in my year by the name of Anneisha McLaughlin . She was a champion in high school.” (Silver medallist in 200m at the 2002 World Juniors in Kingston.) And returning to the point about why Stephen Francis wanted Shericka, she said: “Coach is the type of person who does not really go for stars in high school. He looks for persons with talent, not who are dominating in high school.”
How the decision to accept Francis’s invitation has paid off. In her first year, 2005, and aged 19, Williams won a World Championships silver medal in the 4x400m, relay gold at the 2006 World Cup (running for the Americas), and a second World Championships silver medal in 2007. But, leading into the 2008 Olympic Games, Williams is still seeking to qualify for her first global Final. She was eliminated in the Semi-Finals of the 2005 and 2007 World Championships
In Osaka, Williams was the fastest non-qualifier for the Final. “It was really hard, knowing that I was supposed to make the Final and did not make it,” Williams said. “I know that, in Beijing, I won’t make the same mistakes I made in Osaka.” Of Jamaica’s potential to win the 4x400m, Williams said: “We have a much stronger team this year than in previous years. Our top four girls have run 50-point this year and that hasn’t happened since I joined.”
Going into Beijing, Williams had been unable in 2008 to improve on her two-year-old PB (50.24). “I know I can go under 50sec,” she said. “I am a little bit afraid of how I distribute my race because there’s a lot of pain out there. But, if I make up my mind to run how I’m supposed to, I know I can run 49sec.
“My weakness is my first part of my race. I don’t go out hard enough to hold the field together so I’m always chasing them down the home stretch. That is where my strength is but, if I can get everything compact, I know I can do better.”
Williams was a 100/200m runner before moving up in distance while at St Elizabeth Technical High School. “In my first two years, running 100 and 200, I did not make it to the finals because I was a little kid,” Williams recalled. “In my third year I made it to the Final but didn’t get any medal. In the fourth year, my coach switched me from the 100 and 200 to the 200 and 400 at the National Championships. I made the Finals in both and I came second in the 200 and fifth in the 400.”
At that time, Williams was 17 but still short of international standard. Her development came too late for her to qualify either for World Youth Championships or World Junior Championships and Helsinki 2005 marked her first major championships. The move to UTech was the making of her. “As a young person I was doing track and field for fun,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about the professional circuit, making money, and all that stuff, not until I went to UTech.”
Of the training regimen there, she says: “We have our different groups. The sprinters train together, the quarter milers train together. We warm up together then we split for our programmes then we stretch together. It’s really nice training together, they really motivate you. “
Not married but ‘committed’, Williams says that her interests off the track centre mainly on TV. She likes soaps and comedy. “I like to watch ‘Days Of Our Lives’, ‘Will & Grace’, ‘Everybody Hates Chris’,” she says. “It helps to relax you when you’re away from track.”
100m: 11.34 (2007)
200m: 22.55 (2006)
400m: 50.24 (2006)
400m: 2003: 55.44; 2004: 53.52: 2005: 50.97: 2006: 50.24; 2007: 50.37; 2008: 50.33
2005 SF, World Championships (400m)
2005 2nd World Championships (4x400m)
2006 5th Commonwealth Games (400m)
2006 3rd World Athletics Final (400m)
2006 1st World Cup (4x400m)
2007 SF World Championships (400m)
2007 2nd World Championships (4x400m)
2007 6th World Athletics Final (400m)
Prepared by David Powell for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.