Watson yearns for grandma's cooking, well-needed rest
World Athletics Championships 400m gold medallist Antonio Watson at an adidias Press Conference at adidias Hospitality in Budapest, Hungary, on August 25, 2023. (Photos: Naphtali Junior)

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Newly crowned World Athletics champion Antonio Watson was due home in Duncan, Trelawny, any time now, if he has not got home as yet, and the first order of business, he said, was to get some rest and eat "anything my grandmother cooks".

Watson was one of the biggest surprises at the recently concluded World Athletics Championships held at the brand new National Athletics Centre after he won the men's 400m gold medal, running past three other competitors in the final 60 metres to win in 44.22 seconds.

He pulled the plug on his most successful season to date after he was part of the Jamaican men's 4x400m relay team that finished fourth on Sunday's final night of competition.

A day after becoming only the second Jamaican man to win the quarter-mile race at the World Championships after Bertland Cameron did so at the inaugural staging in 1983 in Helsinki, Finland, Watson, who was a special guest at Adidas House in Budapest, said he knew he was having a special season after his first sub-50.00 seconds run at the Racers Grand Prix in June.

Antonio Watson reacts after winning gold in the men's 400m.

At that meet Watson won the B race in 44.75 seconds as world record holder Wayne Van Niekerk of South Africa won the A race.

The former Petersfield High runner would go on to beat Van Niekerk two times at the World Championships, including in the semi-finals, in which he set his personal best 44.13 seconds.

While he said he was looking forward to resting up after a gruelling season, Watson said he had not even started thinking about how he could improve come next year.

"When the time comes, I will have to sit down with Coach [Glen] Mills and talk about what we have to do," he noted. In an earlier interview at the same venue, Watson had said he was in no rush to start thinking about the Olympics in Paris in 2024.

For now, he just wants to enjoy his success and described the response from his family and friends back in Jamaica as, "Its been crazy".

"My family has been very excited, my friends back home are excited, my friends overseas are excited," he shared. Watson said earlier in the day he had spoken to US-based former Petersfield High teammates Kevin Nedrick and Daniel Cope and they were all very excited as well.

Even so soon after the final he admitted then that he had watched the race on video a few times, but said there was little he would change. "It was a final, I ran my own race, the other runners also ran their own races as well, and to me, I did what was necessary to win."

With about 50 metres to go, however, Watson said he recalled what Coach Mills had told him before the race.

"At that point I just said they [leading pack] are right here, and knowing myself, I just kept pushing, pushing, pushing. Coach told me that if it comes down to the last 50 or 60 metres, [I should] just keep pressing, and that was what I did."

Watson, who said he likes to see Mills smile after a good performance, says he has a good relationship with the man who is more famous for guiding short sprinters Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Kim Collins to global success.

"Coach Mills is cool, he is a jovial person, there is never a dull moment when you are around him, but when it comes to business, he is all business," Watson said.

The 21-year-old says while he has social media accounts, "I am not really a social media person." He said he locks down his accounts every time he is getting close to a major championship"to get my head in the game".

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

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