1st June 2018
FUTURES IN FOCUS: HANNAH WILLIAMS
At the beginning of March, Hannah Williams (coach: Colin Gaynor) achieved one of the biggest landmarks in her career so far as she lined up for leg two of the women’s 4x400m final at the World Indoor Championships.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, the team of herself, Meghan Beesley (Michael Baker), Amy Allcock (Glyn Hawkes) and Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna) crossed the line fourth, but after what seemed an eternity of a wait, were bumped up into bronze medal position following Jamaica’s disqualification.
In the process, she became the youngest ever British world indoor medallist at the age of 19, a feeling which still hasn’t sunk in.
She said: “It still sounds a bit crazy, it happened two months ago but it still doesn’t seem real. When people say, ‘well done’ to me I’m like ‘for what?’ until I realise what they’re on about and it’s ‘oh yeah, I completely forgot about that’ because it’s still really surreal.
“The end was extremely stressful, we were all sat in the basement with no signal and we were desperately trying to find out what was happening. We all started crying because we each thought it was our own fault that we’d been disqualified and we were all so stressed.
“We were fourth, then we’d been disqualified, then eventually it turned out we were third, then we were crying with happiness. Our emotions were all over the place.”
However, it could all have been so different for the now 20-year-old, who considered packing the sport in altogether a few years previous. Throughout her junior and youth career, she had been constantly compared to her sister, 200m specialist Jodie, who only lost once during her junior career.
The feeling of not being at the same level as her sister at the same age led her to feeling like she was fighting a losing battle to make a name for herself.
“I really hated it because when I was at school people would always ask if I was faster than her and I had to say ‘no’ and I always felt really embarrassed by it. I wanted to quit because I wasn’t reaching where she was reaching at my age.
“I didn’t feel confident that I’d be any good because of how much she’d achieved and I wasn’t achieving anything. My progression has been gradual whereas she was at the top from the beginning. We took very different pathways.
“I feel like my friends and schoolteachers would always compare us so I automatically felt slow because I wasn’t anywhere near her times and I was put down by people, not purposely, it was just how it made me feel. I did dance at the time as well and wanted to become a dancer, so I was always torn between the two for which pathway I could follow,” she added.
Motivated and inspired by her sister’s success and with Jodie’s support from the stands, Hannah’s development really kicked on in 2015.
She was rewarded with a British vest for the 400m, her new specialist distance, at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia, finishing sixth in a season’s best 53.24.
She explained: “It was when I made that GB team for the world youths that I realised I wasn’t actually that slow. I decided to take it seriously during the year before world youths and moved up to the 400m, something different to Jodie. I trained hard and kept running faster and faster.
“I made the finals and I was still in shock that I could run fast. That was when I realised just how much I loved it. Jodie was and still is really inspiring. She always motivates me so much and she’s the person I look up to in general really.”
Williams has since gone on to represent Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the World Junior Championships and the European Under 20 Championships in 2016, where she collected two bronze medals in the 400m and 4x400m.
She has also been involved with the British Athletics Futures Academy programme, which recognises athletes with the potential to challenge at the Olympic & Paralympic Games, along with World and European Championships, something she hopes to do this year.
“It’s so nice to get some recognition because you’re working and people can actually see that you’re working hard. They give you so much support,” Williams added. It makes you feel like you’re part of a team and it’s nice to get involved from a younger age where you can go up into it. I’m really enjoying being on the programme.
“I really want to qualify for the European Championships in Berlin, either for the individual 400m or the relay and I want to try and have a fun season. The World Championships are next year so I have loads of competitions in front of me and I’m not stressed about making the teams, it’s more about how I progress with my times.”
Away from the track, Williams is studying art & design at college and feels it is important to have her mind elsewhere when she’s not competing.
“I’m a very creative person anyway so I like to do creative stuff in my free time. I’m at college three or four times a week and there’s always stuff to do after class on projects which is really nice because it always keeps my brain thinking creatively, which I really like.
“It’s so different to athletics and it’s nice to have two really different focuses rather than just athletics. You need to have your brain somewhere else as well. I love fashion and anything where I can be creative.”