Have fun, Melaine, says Deon Hemmings
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Olympic champion Deon Hemmings McCatty OD has advised World and Olympic 400m hurdles champion Melaine Walker to continue her plans of switching from the gruelling one-lap hurdles event and to "have fun" running the sprint version.
Last year, Walker, who won gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China and the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany a year later, announced she was leaving the MVP club and switching from the longer version of the event to the 100m.
Her announcement raised controversy and, despite improvements in her times ,she did not contest the JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Senior Trials in June to compete for a spot on the Jamaica team to the IAAF World Championships held in Moscow last August.
All three women who represented Jamaica in the 100m hurdles in Moscow, Andrea Bliss and sisters Shermaine and Daniel Williams, failed to get past the semi-finals.
Hemmings who was the motivational speaker at Wednesday's launch of the Milo Western Relays at Wexford Inn in Montego Bay, told reporters if she were to give the 31-year-old Walker any advice, it would be, having made her name in the 400m hurdles event, "Go for it. Go for the sprint hurdles, have some fun now."
Hemmings, who had set an Olympic record when she became the first female from the English-speaking Caribbean to win an individual gold medal after running 52.82 seconds, said, "Because I know her, I know what she went through in 2004 when she came to me and said 'hey, I don't like this (the 400m hurdles' but I said to her then, this is what is going to make you the money but it is tough mentally."
Hemmings, who won 10 consecutive national titles, said the 10-barrier, one-lap event is not like any other on the track and field programme. "The 400m hurdles is a different level; it is one event that if you don't train you don't run well; there is no cheating in the 400m hurdles," she pointed out.
"When you go to a track meet running the 400m hurdles you are fully stressed out, but when you go to a track meet running the sprint hurdles, you are having fun, and I think it is time for her to have some fun and I support her."
Initially, however, Hemmings said she might not have "endorsed the move" to the 100m hurdles after Walker had been away from the event for so long, but she said, "I might have done the same thing. The Melaine I know did not like the 400m from day one," and agreed that it got her success at the highest level, "but the training is very hard and after a while it gets to your head".
Walker, who failed to get past the semi-finals of the event at the London Olympics, finishing sixth in her heat in 55.74 seconds, still holds the Olympic record, 52.42 seconds, when she won in Beijing and has a personal best 12.75 seconds in the 100m hurdles set in Sacramento, California, nearly eight years ago in 2006.
She was a finalist in the event at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Poland in 1999, the same day she won a silver medal in the 200m and was fifth in the 100m hurdles at the World Junior Championships held in Kingston three years later.