Updated 9 August 2008
Vonette DIXON, Jamaica (100m Hurdles)
Born 26 November 1975, Lucea, Hanover
1.65m / 59kg
Coach: Nat Page
Manager: Tony Campbell
Vonette Dixon has had the dream. A 100m hurdler with a consistent history of World Championships appearances – she has raced in the last four – Dixon has, by contrast, yet to make her Olympic debut. If the dream comes true in Beijing, it will be an explosive entrance for the 32-year-old US-based Jamaican.
“I really want to be on the medal stand,” Dixon said. “I have had a dream about it. It was so real that I really believed it. I dreamt I won. I had the Jamaican flag around me. I don’t remember the stadium but I remember winning and I was on the podium crying. I ran and hugged my coach, it was just that real.”
And then she woke up. Wasn’t it disappointing for Dixon to open her eyes and realise that she was not Olympic champion after all? “No, no, it wasn’t,” she insisted. “It was a good dream. Now I have to make it a reality. The same day I went to practice and told my coach (Nat Page) about it and he just laughed.”
It would be the natural reaction of most people to laugh at Dixon’s dream, which she had in December 2007 and which has since gone unrepeated. As solid a career as she has enjoyed, her only major championships medal has come from the 2002 Commonwealth Games, in Manchester, when she finished runner-up (12.83) behind compatriot Lacena Golding-Clarke (12.77).
In the three World Championships Finals she has reached, Dixon has finished seventh (2007), eighth (2001) and ninth (2003). There has been little to suggest in her form of 2008 that a medal is in prospect in Beijing but recent Olympic history is in her favour.
Not since Bulgaria’s Yordanka Donkova won in 1988 has the 100m Hurdles gold medal been won by the pre-Games favourite and many of the minor medals have gone to unexpected sources. However, Dixon will need to improve on her form this season which, at its best, has produced only a fourth place in the Golden League, in Berlin, and third in the Jamaican Olympic trials. In both races she clocked 12.71.
In her first year (2000) as a sub 13sec hurdler, Dixon failed to qualify for the team for Sydney. “I finished college in 2000 and went home for the Olympic trials,” she recalled. “That was my first experience on that level and I was doing pretty well until I hit a hurdle. But it was OK because it was my first year out of college. Then, the following year, I made the team for Edmonton (World Championships). I’ve been making all the World Championship teams but, when it comes to the Olympics, something happens. For the 2004 Olympics, I hurt my hamstring and didn’t go to the trials.
“I am always making teams and I am always in the Finals of the major championships. I’m waiting on my moment to come. I’m thankful for those moments in the Finals but I want to medal. Last year I ran my personal best twice, in the Semi-Final (12.65) and Final (12.64). I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve been so close in those Finals.”
Dixon, like legendary Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey, was born in the parish of Hanover. She attended Manning’s High School, Westmoreland, and was brought up by her grandmother and adoptive mother. “I lived with my grandmother (Claris Parkins) from a baby until I was 13 or 14,” Dixon recalled.
After her grandmother died, Vonette lived with her adoptive mother (Audrey Thompson). “I recently started talking to my (biological) mum (Lurline Daley),” Dixon said. “She was never really there but I contacted her because I wanted to get to know her. She said she was 13 when she had me and she had no choice but to leave me with grandmother, so it is understandable. My dad (Ernest Dixon) died when he was 22.”
One of four children – “I have two brothers and a sister, so not really a bit family” – Vonette was the only who showed athletic potential. “I used to get in a lot of trouble with my grandma,” she recalled. “There were three guys I was raised with – my brother and two cousins – and they used to have to chase me when I did wrong to get a whippin’. So I guess that is where some of the speed comes from.
“I was getting chased probably three times a week and I was leaving them. I was really stubborn and disobedient and I guess my grandmother was a disciplinarian. She couldn’t catch me so they (her brother and two cousins) had to. Then, at primary school, they would have sports days and I would outrun some of the guys. That’s where it started and I never stopped.
“In my last year in high school I saw the hurdles on television and I told my coach ‘I like that, I want to try it’. I was about 18. I don’t know what major championship it was but it was Gillian Russell – I was watching the sport news at home in Jamaica and she was running. It was probably the 1993 World Championships (Russell was eliminated in the Semi-Finals). I just said ‘I like that, I want to try it.’
“At first I kept falling, and not finishing my race, but I liked it and never quit. I probably started out at 15sec. I got better, got recruited, and went to Meridian Mississippi College and I ran the 100, 200 and hurdles there. I was running all three events but I was getting hurt. When I was sprinting the 100, I was having hamstring problems, but I could continue doing the hurdles so I just chose that one.”
A graduate of Auburn University, where she was coached by Henry Rolle, Dixon has been training under Page since just before the 2007 World Championships “I changed like a month before the World Championships,” Dixon recalled. “I went to work with him and I started running even better so, at the end of the season, I just packed up my stuff and moved to Atlanta.”
Unmarried, and without children, Dixon had only herself to consider. “It was just me and it was best for my career,” she said. “It has helped my confidence. There is stuff I know that I could correct, and as an athlete I couldn’t, and he is correcting those things. He believes in my potential and what I can do. I like him as a coach – everything is just coming together.”
100m Hurdles: 12.64 (2007)
100m: 11.47/11.40w (2000)
60m Hurdles(i): 7.92 (2002)
60m(i): 7.33 (2000)
100m Hurdles: 1994: 15.13; 1995: 14.29; 1996: 13.52/13.30w; 1997: 13.26; 1998: 13.52; 1999: 13.40; 2000: 12.90; 2001: 12.83; 2002: 12.83/12.82w; 2003: 12.72; 2004: 12.76; 2005: 12.67w; 2006: 12.82/12.80w; 2007: 12.64; 2008:12.71
2001 8th World Championships
2002 2nd Commonwealth Games
2003 3rd Central America and Caribbean Championships
2003 9th World Championships
2005 SF World Championships
2007 4th Pan American Games
2007 7th World Championships
2007 5th World Athletics Final
Prepared by David Powell for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.