Paris, FranceAfter she stormed to an 11 seconds flat victory at the ÅF Golden League kick off in Berlin last month, few would have thought that Kerron Stewart would maintain her winning ways in the 100m as more of her competitors joined the circuit in the weeks that followed.
Now, with the solid momentum of four victories behind her, the 25-year-old Jamaican is gradually emerging as not only a favourite to go the distance in the six-meeting series, but also as the woman to beat at the World Championships in Berlin in four weeks time.
“It shows that you’re consistent and that your hard work is paying off,” Stewart said of her standing after her 10.99 victory at the Stade de France, again blasting through the finish with a hefty margin, this time by 0.16 seconds. “You’re seeing what you’ve been working for all year. It’s starting to make sense now. I’m confident right now.”
She also clocked 10.99 in Oslo, also winning 0.15, but her major performance came last weekend in Rome when she stopped the clock in 10.75, a performance which elevated her all the way to No. 5 all-time, and just 0.01 shy of Merlene Ottey’s national record set 13 years ago.
“From start to finish, it was a good race,” she said of her run in Rome. “It was all right on point.”
But Stewart firmly believes her best is yet to come.
“I think that as long as I stay consistent and stay focus, you will see a faster time.”
‘I want to be number one’
For those who have watched her rise in the ranks, Stewart’s success thus far this year won’t come as a surprise. A former collegiate star in the U.S. who still lives and trains in Auburn, Alabama, Stewart was the only woman sprinter to leave Beijing with two individual medals, taking silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m. She said she’s often asked if coming up short in the Chinese capital was a disappointment, she insists that it was anything but.
“It was a hard moment for me,” she said. “I wasn’t training to get second or third. But I don’t see the Olympics as a disappointment for me because I walked away with two medals. There are plenty of athletes who left without any.
“So it’s not a disappointment, but it did hurt, because I wanted to win. But I got so much experience, and so many memorable moments that I can’t look at it as a disappointment. What it did do, it pushed me to work harder. It motivated me so much because I don’t want to be number two. I want to be number one. I want to be the best. So if something motivates you that much, you cannot see it as a disappointment.”
She decided this year to focus almost solely on the 100m, a difficult decision at first, she said, but one that’s obviously reaping dividends.
“It was a hard decision, but it was a good decision. Now I can focus on the 100. And I can put my energy and time into the one race.”
'I don’t think my 10.7 has secured me anything'
And with the Golden League now taking a break until after the World Championships, Stewart’s entire focus will be her upcoming appearance back in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
Would a repeat of her Rome race, 10.75, be enough to win the world title?
“I would hope,” she said, smiling. “But these girls, you can’t underestimate them. No time that you run would be enough. It has to be the performance that you put on on that day. Personally, I think these girls will come back after that. Because when they beat me, I go back home and work harder. I don’t take a beating lightly. I train even harder. So I know they’re working harder.
“So I don’t think my 10.7 has secured me anything. I have to train to go even faster.”
She doesn’t seem to mind the added attention, and even the new target on her back.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I know everyone’s looking at me because of the time that I’ve run, but it’s what I’ve been working for. It’s part of my job. It comes with the territory so I just have to embrace it.”
With the weather taking a turn for the worst in the French capital today, Stewart was mainly gunning to keep her GL record intact.
“I just wanted to go out there and put on a good performance. I wasn’t trying to do anything crazy because of the conditions. I had to think about it and try and run smart. The win was important and I got that taken care of.”
Now focused on Berlin, Stewart is upbeat, and she has displayed plenty to be upbeat about.
“There’s nothing that I’m worried about right now. Except for staying healthy.
“I’m optimistic. I never doubt myself. If I set goals I work as hard as I can to achieve it. So there’s no reason for me to doubt myself.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF