This is Stuart Weir’s first preview of the Olympians from British Athletics! Jodie Williams is a fascinating athlete, who has had success as a junior and now, success as an elite athlete. Jodie will be competing at 400 meters and is on the 4x400m relay squad.
Jodie Williams won the GB trials at 200 and 400, causing herself a problem as she had gained automatic selection for Tokyo in both. Quickly realizing that two individual events plus one or even two relays were not realistic, she opted to run the 400m at the Games.
In 2009 Jodie won the 100 and 200 at the World Youth Championship and the following year won the 100 in the World Juniors, taking silver in the 200. A stellar career seemed to be ahead of her but the move from Junior to Senior was not as seamless as she might have hoped. 2014 was a good year with silver at the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games at 200m.
In her final meet before Tokyo, the Diamond League in Gateshead, she went to run the 400m, found there was a spare lane in the 200, and did a double in an hour, running a PR in the 400 (her first sub 51) and the fastest time for 7 years in the 200. She explained how it happened: “Originally I was just going to run the 400, trying to get a fast time and was a late entry into the 200. I have loved doubling up. It works better for me. But it was really nice to see 22.60, the fastest I’ve run since 2014. That gives me a lot of confidence especially running it just an hour afterward. I think there’s a lot more in the tank and I ran the 400 quite differently from the way I have been running all year. I was a second off at 300 to where I usually am. So it is certainly a big confidence boost having run a PR just before the games, to get myself a bit higher up the rankings than I was before”.
Jodie decided to run a number of 400s indoors this year – including gaining a bronze at the European Indoors – and it proved to be a catalyst: “I really enjoyed the indoors; that really was the pivotal point of me switching to the 400 outdoors this year. People have a misconception of me and the 400. I always knew I had lots of potential at the distance. It is something I have always trained for. Training has always been more 400-based than just as a sprinter because that suits me better. I know what my times are in training and I know how I train so I don’t think it has really been a surprise. For me, it was a big mental shift. It is not a chosen event for me, more something I have been forced into. I am a very passionate person and I only really want to do things that I enjoy. So I have had to find ways to enjoy the event and I love a challenge and I have been looking at it from that perspective. Hopefully, we will see the time drop off”.
For someone who has been a World Junior and Youth record holder at 100 and someone who has represented GB in a world championship at 60m, she made a strange statement: “My body doesn’t really tolerate speed all that well”. She explained further: “A lot of the injuries when I was younger were because of speed load. Everybody’s body is different and everybody handles speed differently and I had to work that out. Mine doesn’t tolerate the intensity of speed workouts very well. It takes me a very long time to recover from speed. I am very elastic and hypermobile and my body struggles to tolerate that kind of load. We find that I have a very high threshold for speed endurance over longer sprint running. I can turn that out every day and that is what makes me fast. Some other athletes can’t handle that kind of work but they handle speed and can do that every day. So it is about training to your own abilities but it’s taken us a little while to figure that out and find a happy balance. Obviously, I am a sprinter and I do have to do speed work. It’s about finding different ways to do it and to get the most out of the other sessions as well”.