Jodie Williams: 'I don't want to fizzle out early. I want to make the grade'

My road to 2012: The Sprint prodigy is missing school to test herself against the seniors in Paris
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The Independent Online

Presumably Jodie Williams had to hand in a note from her parents before being given leave from her A-level studies at Queenswood School in Hatfield. Something like: "Sorry but Jodie won't be in until Monday. She's running for Great Britain at the European Indoor Championships in Paris."

Not that the Welwyn Garden whizz-kid is putting her schoolwork entirely to one side as she prepares for her first examination in senior international competition. "I've been given a tonne of work," she said. "I've got a load of maths papers to do because I've got exams coming up in May."

The figures in the form book for the 2011 indoor season suggest that Williams is unlikely to figure in the medal equation when it comes to the women's 60m final on Sunday in the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy, day three of the biennial continental indoor championships. The 17-year-old is ranked sixth on the entry list with 7.24sec.

Still, it will be intriguing to see how the pride of the Herts Phoenix Athletics Club reacts to the stimulus of senior championship competition in what for her is a testing of the waters ahead of 2012. Williams will be 18 and still a junior when the Olympics are held down the road from her Hertfordshire home next summer. At least her A-level maths will be out of the way by then.

"I think I'm less nervous if anything, because I don't feel too much pressure on me," Williams said, after sitting in on the eve-of-championship British team press conference yesterday. "In junior competitions I'm there at the top and I'm expected to perform, whereas here it's my first senior competition and I'm not at the top."

Up to the final of the 200m at the World Junior Championships at Moncton in Canada last July, Williams had swept all before her as a burgeoning young speed merchant. Her winning streak of 151 races had brought her world youth 100m and 200m gold, world junior 100m gold and a 200m personal best of 22.79sec, a time bettered as a 16-year-old at sea level only by one Marion Jones. Perhaps it was just as well that Williams was beaten in the world junior 200m final by Stormy Kendrick, an American three years her senior. She may have to become accustomed to following in the wake of others when she makes her senior international debut in the 60m heats tomorrow.

It bodes well for Williams' future that she is mindful of the potential pitfalls of the female sprint prodigy. "I don't want to be another name on the list of juniors who have fizzled out too soon," she said, alluding to the depressing litany of teenage British world-beaters who failed to make the grade as seniors – Amy Spencer, Vernicha James and Sarah Wilhelmy, to name but three. "I want to be the name that breaks through."

Williams has chosen to concentrate on junior competition in the summer and make herself unavailable for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August. It is all part of a long-term plan by Williams' coach, Mike McFarlane, who was a European champion as a junior sprinter and a Commonwealth champion and Olympic relay silver medallist as a senior.