Delano Williams: The Brit learning at the feet of Usain Bolt

The 19-year-old tells Matt Majendie how training with the world's fastest man was at first intimidating but is now inspiring

Matt Majendie
Thursday 24 April 2014 02:05

The initial feeling was one of fear, understandable for a 19-year-old when the two people waiting for you on the track are the fastest on the planet.

That apprehension has dissipated for the teenager in question, Delano Williams, the British sprinter who has since turned 20. Fear has been replaced by a fraternal feeling. He has rapidly become one of the group – Usain Bolt is like a big brother who calls him "junior" while Yohan Blake has taken Williams under his wing.

Williams is the newest recruit of coach Glenn Mills' prestigious Racers Track Club in Jamaica, a set-up in which he would struggle to get on the podium. In London two years ago RTC spawned an Olympic 200 metres one-two-three with Bolt, Blake and Warren Weir, a feat that probably would have been repeated had Blake been fit for last year's World Championships.

"When I first turned up it was kind of scary," recalls Williams. "That first day I was scared but I did a lot of running and some drills. It's fun. Usain and Yohan know how to have fun but when it's business, it's business."

The new boy is steadily earning his spurs amid sprinting's most elite group. "Usain says I'm junior now and says he's going to make me up to a senior," says Williams. "Also Yohan's looking out for me too to take me through the season. I used to be the kid from Turks and Caicos but I'm now the guy from Great Britain."

Williams' allegiance to Britain came at the height of the "Plastic Brits" furore in 2012. Born and bred in the Turks and Caicos, he was not allowed to compete at the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee as the Caribbean islands do not boast their own national governing body.

So, as they are a British Overseas Territory, he was eligible to run for GB even though he had visited the country only once. His passport was rushed through to such an extent his name was spelt wrong. As it was, he missed out on a place at London 2012 – running jet-lagged on a dreary day in Birmingham at the trials Williams faltered – but competed in a GB vest at last year's World Championships in Moscow, where he made the 200m semi-finals.

Anyone questioning his allegiance did not see Williams up and tuned in at 4am Jamaican time in Kingston for the early sessions of last month's World Indoors.

He has yet to shine in the senior ranks but the expectation is huge, thanks to his success at the World Junior Championships, where he won gold in 2012, and the Jamaican Junior Championships, where last year he fractionally missed out on two prestigious championship records held by Blake and Bolt respectively in the 100m and 200m.

He has yet to deliver on that huge potential but the boy-turned-man from Grand Turk does not lack for confidence. "It might not be this year or next year but my time will come," he says.

One can imagine the worldly-wise Bolt and Blake being amused when Williams, who is also studying part-time for a marketing degree, first turned up on the track. He is polite to a T, his conversation staccatoed with repeated mentions of "sir".

Following on from James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili's performances last season and Richard Kilty's recent indoor world title win, despite the obvious geographical difference, Williams is part of what could become a golden era of British sprinting. For his part, he is relishing the opportunity to upset his training partners.

"Great Britain sprinting has stepped up a gear," he says. "We've got fast guys running fast times who should contest with Yohan and Usain at the Olympics and World Championships. Hopefully, I'm in that pool doing well."

Williams boasts a remarkable sprint range. The 200m is currently his best event but he has shone over the shorter distance and also broke his personal best for the 400m in February.

As for his season's aspirations, top is the European Championships in Zürich – he does not know whether he or the rest of his group will compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – but he has no idea how he will perform on track, describing 2014 as a "transition year".

"I'm just trying to adapt as much as possible to the senior level and I'll run in some of the Diamond Leagues on the world circuit. It's a first for everything at the moment so I'm taking my time. First is working with coach Mills, who's very inspirational in showing me the stuff I'm doing wrong.

"I believe and trust in him. The big problem is the start, I'm not flexible enough and so I don't drive well enough out of the blocks. He's working a lot on that for me and my speed work. It's the first three or four steps mainly. I'll get there but it will take time."

Williams has lived in Jamaica for six years, having gone there as a 14-year-old on a scholarship. His mum, whom he still speaks to every day over the phone, cried her eyes out, fearful her son would be killed in gang violence. "Now I think she has no regrets. It was a hard choice but she really believed in me," he says.

Mum could be forgiven for being apprehensive for a myriad of reasons about her son's welfare, not least of all the temptations of doping following the stories to have emanated from Jamaica over the past year.

On that issue, he says: "That doesn't worry me at all. As I said, I trust my coach 100 per cent and the guys around me. I know they've worked themselves to the bone and that we're all responsible for what goes in our bodies."

Barely six months into his time with RTC, Williams is adamant the signs for his future are good. When asked about long-term goals, he says they are "for me and my coach". One suspects catching his illustrious training partners is high on the career to-do list.

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