The young athlete is following in the footsteps of her well-known sister Jodie
Seventeen-year-old Hannah Williams acknowledges that up until recently there has been no denying the fact that her sister Jodie, the European and Commonwealth 200 metres silver medallist, was the fastest in the family.
But after placing sixth in the 400m at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia, with 53.24 in July, Hannah is ready for a race-off – and over her specialist distance.
“The first thing I said to Jodie after my 400m final at the World Youths was, ‘You know I’m technically faster than you now.’ She replied: ‘Let’s have a race then, as we will see who the real champion is.’ Therefore, I think a race-off is due,” recalls Hannah, smiling, no doubt quietly confident that she can produce yet another PB and prove that, although she might not have her older sister’s natural speed and international medals, she is now the fastest Williams over one lap.
As it stands, Jodie does boast a superior 400m PB at 52.55 from last year, but having made a late start to her season due to injury, in her one 400m race of 2015 she recorded 53.51.
“Up until this year there wasn’t really any rivalry, as Jodie would always beat me,” says Hannah. “However, now she wants to run another 400m just to beat my time.”
Is sprint success in the Williams family genes? “My parents claim they were fast, but I don’t really believe them. We also have a brother in between us who has never sweated or done sport in his life,” jokes Hannah, who also has a fourth place finish at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa to her name from this summer.
“Up until this year there wasn’t really any rivalry, as Jodie would always beat me. However, now she wants to run another 400m just to beat my time”
Regardless of who takes top honours in the family rivalry contest, judging by Hannah’s big improvement this year, including running a PB in every round in Cali, together with her older sister’s current specialisation in the shorter sprints, it won’t be long before Hannah betters Jodie’s 400m PB.
The Herts Phoenix teenager admits it has been a “crazy” season that still has not quite sunk in. Having won English Schools medals over 200m the past two seasons, even Hannah herself had not expected quite so much success in her first year over 400m.
She reflects: “It all started when my coach wanted me to try a 400m indoors as part of my training. I was reluctant to do it but I surprised myself with the time and thought that maybe I could actually be good at it, so I started doing 400m training.”
As for her first experience of representing Great Britain and in a major championships, Hannah proved that, like her sister – a former world youth 100m and 200m champion – she, too, has the ability to rise to the occasion.
“Going into the championships, I was aiming to make it through to the semis, so when I placed sixth in the final after three PBs I was unsure whether I was dreaming. I think it must have been my long black socks that I started wearing at the nationals. I think my lucky socks might become my new thing, as I have run a PB every time I’ve worn them,” reveals Hannah, laughing.
“Going into the championships, I was aiming to make it through to the semis, so when I placed sixth in the final after three PBs I was unsure whether I was dreaming”
However, it is clear that the first taste of international racing has made the talented young athlete hungry for more. Having done cross country at school and feeling that she does not possess the raw power for the shorter sprints, Hannah feels she is better suited to the one-lap sprint, saying: “I have a love-hate relationship with 400m.”
Hannah does three sessions a week with Colin Gaynor and Nick Lloyd at Welwyn Garden City, plus one gym session a week at Hertfordshire University, as she is part of the Hertfordshire talented athlete programme (HTAP). Having played all sports at school, she now concentrates on athletics, although she still dances – mainly contemporary dance and also aeriel hoops – and she has just finished her AS levels in maths, physics, design technology and dance at Queenswood School. She hopes to study architecture at university.
Despite the light-hearted family rivalry due to Hannah’s rapid rise, it is particularly refreshing that the younger
sibling is still in awe of her older sister’s achievements, which have also included being double European junior sprints champion and a gold and silver from the IAAF World Junior Champonships.
“Jodie has definitely inspired me. I look at all of her medals and just think, ‘wow’. I have also seen all the highs and lows of the sport through her, so have a lot of respect for her,” she says.
However, Hannah adds with a smile: “Jodie is definitely always going to be the fastest over 100m and 200m, but we will see who is the fastest over 400m after our race-off.”
You can find further performance stats on Hannah on Power of 10 here.
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