Jodie Williams ready to start again after year of trials


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The Independent Online

As Britain's leading athletes were preparing at their pre-Olympic training camp in Portugal and the Opening Ceremony of the London Games was moments away from its lavish beginning, Jodie Williams was back at school.

It was the day of her graduation, a chance to celebrate B grades in her psychology and physical education A-levels – she had not competed her full maths module because of her athletics commitments. She smiled for the family photographs but her mind was partly elsewhere, as the biggest sporting spectacle Britain had ever hosted got under way and she could only watch from afar.

The Hertfordshire athlete's Olympic ambition had ended in a heap on the track at the Olympic trials the previous month in Birmingham as a pulled hamstring brought that dream to a dramatic and emotional conclusion.

There were tears from Williams and also from her mother and sister in the stands. "The whole year had been a hard year," she says. "I'd had a lot of injuries and obviously the pressure of my A-levels. It just felt like one setback after another. I think that all built up at the trials, and so the tears was [a result of] all of the build-up, both mentally and physically."

Williams had a feeling that 2012 was not going to be her year. "I just had so much going on and my body just started to break down," she says. "If someone had asked me before what my worst setback was, I would have said coming second at the world juniors, but this was a proper setback.

"That was my first real setback year. It was hard, as I'd not been used to dealing with setbacks before."

To refresh both her mind and body, she immediately packed up her racing spikes for the next two to three months. She also took a break with her boyfriend, Junior Ejehu, but the holiday was not booked until after the Games, so first she sat at home watching her friends and team-mates compete in the Olympic Stadium.

"It was tough to sit back and watch it, to see other people [competing], and thinking I could have been there at the home Olympics," she says. "But then I told myself I'm 18 and there's hopefully plenty more Olympics ahead of me. It wasn't nice sitting at home, and it took me a while to get over that."

Time has proved the great healer, though, and Williams has thrown herself full tilt back into winter training which, for her, actually started before the end of the summer.

Having opted to miss the indoor season in order to bulk up in the gym and enable herself to get back to full fitness, she got her season under way in France last weekend with her first-ever 250-metre race.

She will compete on home soil for the first time since those arduous trials when she runs in Manchester next Saturday at the free, open-air Great CityGames over 150 metres against the Olympic 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

And later in the year she has her shot at Olympic redemption of sorts, with a potential run at the Anniversary Games. "I love competing at home," she says. "It's a great opportunity to experience the atmosphere of last summer. But right now I'm not looking further ahead than the next race in Manchester."

Her sights will later focus on the European Under-23 Championships, but as for the World Championships in Moscow in August, she merely says: "I'd love to be there but I've just got to see how the season goes."

The signs are that she is in a good position. She is stronger, having focused on gym work for the first time, and she is finally running pain-free, potentially able to translate her pace from junior level, where she dominated – she was unbeaten in 149 races – on to the senior stage.

The winter has also been about building up her confidence. She says: "My confidence took a knock as I didn't compete to the standard I would have liked to. It's hard not to have your confidence knocked from that. But I've had to just learn from the mistakes and move on."

Now free from the shackles of her studies – "I don't know how I did the last few years" – she is relishing the chance to focus on athletics for the first time.

As a result of last year, however, her expectations for the short term have been lowered. "This year it's about getting into the senior worlds and taking it slow," she says. "But long term, the goal's still the same: to be the best in the world."