Tue | Oct 22, 2019

Clayton ready for World Champs challenge

Published:Monday | September 23, 2019 | 12:25 AMAndrÈ Lowe/Sports Editor
National 400m hurdles champion Rushell Clayton at the Curve Hotel in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.
National 400m hurdles champion Rushell Clayton at the Curve Hotel in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.

DOHA, Qatar:

It has been quite a season for Jamaican hurdler Rushell Clayton. Two years ago, she was running 57 seconds in the 400m hurdles more often than not and failed miserably in her bid to qualify for the London 2017 World Championships after finishing seventh at the National Senior Championships.

Dogged by stubborn injuries, including a metatarsal fracture in 2016 and other setbacks before, and after that traumatic experience Clayton’s road to the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, has been anything but a sprint.

In truth, she couldn’t be competing in a better event, with the 400m hurdles providing the perfect representation of the challenges she has had to not only face but conquer.

Clayton, the national champion in the event, arrived in Doha as the sixth-fastest woman in the world in the 400m hurdles, after putting an axe to her personal best, which now stands at 54.16 seconds. This also makes her the eighth-fastest Jamaican of all time. Not bad for someone with screws in her right foot courtesy of that fracture.

Confidence

Her successes this season, and, particularly, the struggles she has had to endure to arrive at this point, have created a shield of confidence for the Pan American Games bronze-medal winner, who is relishing the opportunity to test herself against the planet’s best.

“I’m super excited, and I’m looking forward to it,” Clayton told The Gleaner yesterday evening from the team’s hotel here.

“I am not surprised by my performances, but I am very pleased. I have been working for so many years, I have been through so many setbacks, so many injuries, and to become national champion and make it to the World Championships, is truly amazing. I have gained so much confidence over the past few races.”

And why shouldn’t she have?

Clayton not only helped herself to the medal podium at the Pan Am Games, she also won three of her four races preceding the championships in Lima, Peru, including the London Anniversary Games, where she ran that 54.16-second time.

Notwithstanding, with the likes of world record holder Dalilah Muhammad (USA) and her compatriot Sydney McLaughlin also in Doha, Clayton is aware of the challenge ahead of her.

“I am looking forward to taking it on round by round as I did at Trials and with other races,” she said.

“It is a tough event, but it makes me a better person. I like competing, I enjoy competing, and when you enjoy what you are doing, it makes it much easier.”

She credits her coach Okeil Stewart for her improvements and resilience.

“He (Stewart) has done a lot for me training-wise and personal-wise. He has been there and has pushed me so much. When I didn’t believe in myself, he was always telling me I can do this. He is the secret (behind her success),” Clayton shared.

Clayton gets going in Doha on Friday at 8:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. Jamaica time), when the heats of the 400m hurdles get under way.