PAUL Francis, who trains Olympic Games 100m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, expects that his charge would have improved over her 2021 breakout year which saw her run personal bests of 10.76 seconds in the 100m and 21.81 seconds in the 200m.
Jackson is fifth-fastest Jamaican woman ever over the 100m and seventh-best in the 200m, but this time last year she was expected to challenge for the 400m title at the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, given she was then seen as a 200m/400m runner and the state of the 400m event at the global level was uncertain .
After winning the bronze in the 400m at the Olympics in Rio in 2016 and at the World Championships [World Championships] in Doha in 2019 the assumptions would have made sense — until she instead showed up at the JAAA National Championships in 2021 and shocked many by placing second in both the 100m and 200m, on both occasions behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
A year later, Jackson is a bona-fide threat in both sprint events and Francis surmises that she will improve this year.
“If we are to look at statistics, usually when persons are new [to an event] a lot of mistakes will be made, but as time goes by they will improve,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Friday. “I would say that Shericka has improved marginally this year so hopefully that will show in her performances on the track,” he said.
The 27 year-old Jackson has run a season’s best 10.92 seconds in the 100m so far, and two weeks ago Jackson easily defeated a star-studded field to win the 200m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome, beating Olympic champion and compatriot Elaine Thompson-Herah and World champion Dina Asher-Smith in the process while setting a meet record 21.91 seconds, third-best in the world so far.
Jackson’s dominant performance in coming off the curve first and opening up a significant gap on the field had tongues wagging and set expectations high — but Francis is urging caution.
“I would not read anything in[to] the last 200m race that [she competed) in Rome,” Francis stated.
“There are varying stages of a training process and the general pubic would not know what stage she is at, so I don’t think there is much to read,” he opined.
Francis, however, hastened to suggest:“What persons should pay a little bit more attention to is, one: whether or not she is able to effectively qualify for the teams, and two: what her performances would be at the WC in Eugene, Oregon.”
At last year’s Olympics Jackson appeared to have misjudged her 200m first-round race, slowed down too early, and missed advancing to the semi-finals in what some think is her best event; and it was suggested to Francis that maybe there was “unfinished business left” for her in the event.
“Yes, we are happy that it has been appreciated as a mistake; people learn form their mistakes,” Francis said. “Would we say that is unfinished business? As long as you are there as a professional, you are there to compete and compete to the best of your abilities — especially on the big stage.”
Fast times were not the priority, however, he said. “We are not looking at time targets at this time. We are basically trying to take the steps which are required to go on the big stage, which is top three in the 100m and top three in the 200m.”