This is a column that Stuart Weir loved to write about Danielle Williams, the 2015 and now 2023 champion at 100m hurdles!
Danielle Williams, second time a World Champion
The sprint hurdles are one of my favourite events. It requires speed but also technical ability and the race is never over until the final hurdle has been successfully negotiated. In the same way that many people prefer women’s tennis to men’s (finesse against power), I prefer women’s hurdles to men’s. It is somehow graceful or poetry in motion.
The Budapest final seemed wide open with no clear favourite. The world rankings have Tobi Amusen first and Jasmine Camacho-Quinn second. Keni Harrison is third, and Nia Ali is fifth. Amusen was the reigning world champion and the current world record holder, but her 2023 form has been mixed. Keni Harrrison previous world record holder, winner of 14 Diamond Leagues, world indoor champion, and Olympic silver medalist but has yet to win an outdoor global title. Camacho-Quinn is the reigning Olympic champion who has won 8 Diamond Leagues in the last 18 months. Then there is Nia Ali, aged 34 a former world champion and in the form of her life.
Danielle Williams, also a former world champion, but with no consistent form in 2023, only qualified for the final on time, finishing third in her semi-final. Her prelim and semi times of 12.51 and 12.50, both seasons’ bests, did not look as if it would trouble Keni Harrison – 12.24 in the prelim and 12.33 in the semi. Williams was in the outside lane with Harrison and Amusen. Camacho-Quinn in the favoured middle lanes.
Watching the race, I was certainly concentrating on the middle lanes where Camacho-Quinn (12.44) just edged Harrison (12.46); what I had not spotted was that Danielle Williams on the outside lane had come through in 12.43 to take her third world championship medal.
Danieel Williams, 100m hurdle WC, 2015 and now, 2023! photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
She commented afterwards: “I knew it was going to be tough. I came out here knowing I could win, but I would have to give everything. I still don’t believe I won against such a stellar field. I’ve been racing these ladies all year, and they have been kicking me left, right and centre. But I had such confidence in my training and my abilities that I never stopped believing. My starts have always been good. The finish is usually my problem, but I spoke to my sister yesterday, and she said I need to make sure to race over all the hurdles because I wasn’t going flat out through all of them. Today I was determined to take it all the way. When I won the world in 2015, it was unbelievable. But this took a lot of hard work, a lot of years of toil and injuries, and losing my confidence and battling to get back to this stage. It’s awesome, Jamaica is a proud country, and we love to win. I love to win”.
Incidentally, the sister Danielle referred to was Shermaine, who competed in the hurdles in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Danielle Williams was world champion in 2015 but probably did not get the credit she deserved. The three Americans we’re the favourites. Keni Harrison false-started, Dawn Harper-Nelson fell and defending champion Brianna Rollins could not replicate her Moscow victory. Britain’s Tiffany Porter led over the final hurdle, but a stumble ended her chances. On the other hand, Danielle Williams successfully negotiated the start, the ten hurdles and the finish and was a worthy winner.
Some hurdlers are sprinters others are great technically; I asked Danielle how she saw herself. She replied: “My PB for 100m is 11.2, and I think I can run the hundred pretty fast, but I also know I’m a pretty good technician. So I would say I’m a bit of a mash-up between the two. My issue with hurdles is that it’s a rhythm event. It’s not really a sprint, it’s a shuffle, so because I am a good sprinter, it’s definitely hard for me to shuffle. That is the issue for me being a sprinter and the technician”.
One fun fact about Danielle is that she has twice set two PRs on the same day, running 12.58 and 12.57 in the semi-final and final World Championships 2015. In London in 2019, she can 12.41 and 12 32 in the same afternoon.