Sport

'Briana chose Jamaica ahead of the US,' says mother

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — The decision for newly crowned IAAF World Under-20 women's sprint double champion Briana Williams to compete in the black, green and gold of Jamaica in international track and field competition, instead of United States where she was born, was made by the athlete herself.

Sharon Simpson, Briana's mother, told the Jamaica Observer on Sunday's final day of the six-day championships in Tampere Stadium, that trips to Jamaica to visit family and the excitement of the ISSA Boys' and Girls' Championships could have been the main factor in the teenager's decision to shun the red, white and blue of the United States and their seemingly endless resources.

After being too young to compete in the IAAF World Under-18 and the Youth Commonwealth Games last year, Williams returned with a bang this year to win three gold medals at the CARIFTA Games in The Bahamas, including the sprint double on her way to the Austin Sealy award for the most impressive athlete in the championships.

She was a part of two record-breaking performances then, running 11.27 seconds (1.6m/s) on the first day to break the 20-year-old CARIFTA record of 11.28 seconds set in 1998 by Ranieka Bean of Bermuda.

She also won the 200m in a then personal best 23.11 seconds (1.1m/s) after leading off the Under-17 girls' 4x100m team to a championships record 44.95 seconds to erase the 45.05 seconds set by another Jamaican foursome in 2009.

Last week she stepped up several notches with 11.16 seconds to win the 100m here in Tampere, just off her personal best 11.13 seconds, then returned two days later to complete the double with a sparking 22.50 seconds, a new Championships Record and National Youth and Junior marks in the process.

She could have easily turned out in the US colours if her mother did not give her the option to choose and also to disregard the urgings of some family members to choose 'the easier path' and represent the United States.

“The decision to run for Jamaica as opposed to the USA was all up to Briana, she chose Jamaica over America,” Simpson told the Jamaica Observer.

“She was always going to Jamaica for summer and Christmas vacations and also went to Champs, and the whole idea of being at Champs and seeing the excitement, she got caught up in the excitement as well.

“Track and field in the USA is boring, nothing like what Champs is about and I think that was one of the reasons she chose to run for Jamaica,” Simpson pointed out. “I had nothing to do with it, she was the one who chose.”

Simpson herself might have been inadvertently leaning towards the USA as when Briana just started racing she had started a Facebook account for her and had placed an American flag on it with the message “future US Olympian”, but the athlete later removed it after she got a taste of what track and field in Jamaica was really about.

“She had made up her mind, once she went to Champs, she did not want to run for America and we backed her by getting the paperworks done,” Simpson added.

There were attempts by some family members to suggest that with the resources that the American track and field federation had at their disposal, the “best choice” was staying 'home' and running in the red, white and blue.

“Why would you run for Jamaica when the US has all the resources,” she was asked several times, Simpson said. “But she said she wanted to run for Jamaica and I said we will not force her to run for a country that she does not want to run for.”

Simpson gave an example of when she was growing up, “she was just a track baby then, she used to write with her left hand and she used to gravitate to her left hand and her father used to try to change her, but I said 'no, put the pen down and let her pick it up and she will decide as a child growing up which hand she will use predominantly'.”

As a doting mother Simpson said she would allow her only child to make her own decisions. “I won't interfere with her decisions as long as she won't damage or hurt herself, I will just support her and that was why I got the paperwork together for her when she decided to run for Jamaica.”

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