Call it the snowball effect, call it divine inspiration, call it whatever you like but there is no doubting the fact that 10 minutes before she pushed herself back into her blocks, US hurdler Trinity Wilson might have happily settled for a silver medal at the IAAF World Youth Championships on Thursday.
Wilson came to the northern French town with medal aspirations, she was second on the 2011 world youth rankings with her time of 13.42 but the Swiss athlete Noemi Zbären – the world leader prior to the championships – was the clear gold medal favourite having improved her own world-leading time to 13.31 in the heats on Thursday.
“But I was inspired by seeing Jennifer Madu take the gold medal in the 100m just as I was getting ready to go out on the track,” explained the 16-year-old from Oakland in California, after clocking the second-fastest youth time in history of 13.11 to win the gold medal.
Madu made it happen
“We are good friends and seeing her win the 100m when perhaps other people were bigger favourites spoke to me. When I went to the start of the 100m hurdles, I was excited,” added the stunned and delighted Wilson.
Only France’s Adrianna Lamalle, who ran 13.08 at the inaugural World Youth Championships 12 years ago, has ever gone faster in this age category.
Zbären didn’t fold. Quite the opposite; she also ran the race of her life and chased Wilson to the line to finish in a national youth record of 13.17, the fourth-fastest time ever recorded, and she got Switzerland’s first medal ever at the World Youth Championships
However, the sheer speed and precision of Wilson’s hurdling meant it was Zbären who had to settle for the second rung on the podium.
“Technically I felt really good, and I was snapping down right over the top of the hurdles,” said Wilson after the race, still slightly in shock.
However, perhaps she shouldn’t have been so surprised.
Wilson, who is still 16 as she turns 17 in September, has been on the road to international stardom ever since she won a US Junior Olympic title in a record time at the age of 13.
Long road to Lille
Last summer, she took a trip to the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore where she finished sixth despite being the youngest member of the US team at the age of 15 – and where she first encountered Zbären who got the bronze medal – and running mainly against girls 12 months older than her.
She will start her last year at St Mary's High in Oakland and has become one of the hottest properties for the highly competitive US universities to recruit.
Wherever she goes, she’ll get the ringing endorsement of the man who has guided her so far.
“Trinity is one of the most coachable and enjoyable athletes that I have ever coached,” said her coach Curtis Taylor at the East Oakland Youth Development Centre, who has also guided a host of sprinters and hurdles to international success. "She is motivated and very goal oriented. She will be very successful in whatever she chooses to do in life."
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for coach Taylor," said Wilson. "He understands my personality, he knows what I have to do to get over the hurdles. I’ve set a lot of records [in the United States] but I don’t think about them too much as I move on to the next thing."
Demonstrating her poise in public, and not just when the gun goes, last summer she was a guest speaker at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics opening ceremony in Sacramento, passing on her knowledge and enthusiasm to her contemporaries.
Like so many athletes in Lille, the spotlight will be on Wilson to see whether she can transfer the success she has had in Lille into the category above them at next year’s World Junior Championships in Barcelona
However, Wilson has also got an appetite for competing on an even bigger stage in the near future.
“I want to be an Olympian in 2012 or 2016, but I’ve learnt the life skills from my track career so far to know I’m going to have to work my butt off to do it,” she joked, knowing that she has got at least one gold medal to take back to the part of the United States often known as the Golden State.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF