Runner's World Heroes 2011

Meet this year's Heroes of Running, as named by the Runner's World UK team.

Posted: 10 May 2011

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The Rising Star: Jodie Williams

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee is a notoriously hard man to please. Since he took over in 2008, Britain's athletes have found it tough to convince the Dutchman they're worthy of wearing the GB vest.

So when he smiled and said, "She's the sort of athlete every country is waiting for," about 17-year-old Jodie Williams after the she finished fourth in the 60m at the Paris European Indoor Athletics Championships in March, his words caused quite a stir. Van Commenee could hardly contain his excitement at Williams' success in her first senior international championships, and he wasn't the only one.  

"It was an amazing experience competing in Paris," says the world junior 100m champion. "Just to be away with the senior team was great. It wasn't really that different from junior competitions. The only thing that was strange was that normally I'm expected to win races, but this time there were no real expectations on me. I felt like I'd be happy with however I did."

That's not really true, though, is it? She smiles, shaking her head. "OK, I'm extremely competitive so I really wanted to get through to the final. In the back of my head I was thinking of a medal, but these things can't always happen."

Throughout her junior career though, these things have always happened. Two years ago at the World Youth Championships in Italy, Williams, aged 15, became the first girl in the competition's history to achieve the 100m and 200m sprint double. A year later, she travelled to the World Junior Championships in Canada with expectations that she'd do the 'double double' and continue a winning streak dating back to 2007.

She started well, preserving her 149-race winning streak in the 100m - a victory she says was her "proudest moment" of the past 12 months, Paris aside. But then something strange happened: Williams was beaten. "At the time I was absolutely gutted," she says of her second place in the 200m final. But looking back now, it was a massive relief. There's no way I'd have wanted to go to the European Indoors in Paris still being unbeaten.

"Once I got to the final [in Paris] I was actually quite relaxed," she says. "I just wanted to do a bit better than my ranking - I think I was the sixth fastest in the race."

Williams was beaten to the bronze medal by one-hundredth of a second - something she only realised after watching the replay. "Because I was on the outside I couldn't see what was going on. Watching it afterwards though, I knew I'd come fourth and the Norwegian had pipped me to the line. I was happy with my race, but being so close to a medal was quite frustrating." Van Commenee clearly believes those medals will come, and we're inclined to agree.

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