Interview by Marc R. Grosso (Dr Track)
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
2008 World Indoor
Champion at 60
meters (Photo by
Angela Williams just won the 2008 World Indoor Championships 60 meter dash with a world leading time of 7.06 seconds. This is the fastest Women’s 60-meter dash since 1998.
Angela has been competing a high level since 1995, when she won the US National Junior Championship at 100 meters and placed second at the Pan-Am Junior Championships.
She set the US Junior Record for 100 meters in 1998 (11.11) and was the first high school female to break 11.0 seconds (10.95w) in 1997. Angela was unanimously named Track & Field News High School female athlete of the year in 1997 and 1998 - one of only two women to be a unanimous selection (the other is Marion Jones). She is the first woman to win four NCAA 100 meter championhips (was also the first to win three).
This 2008 World Championships win is the first individual event gold medal at the Senior level that Angela has won.
Her career highlights:
Personal Best - Outdoor
100 Metres (11.04, Boise, ID, 1999)
200 Metres (23.02, Norwalk, CA, 1998)
400 Metres (53.40, Norwalk, CA. 1995)
Personal Best - Indoor
50 Metres (6.17, Los Angeles, CA, 2002)
50 Metres (6.17, Los Angeles, CA, 2001)
55 Metres (6.73, Los Angeles, CA, 2003)
60 Metres (7.06, Valencia, ESP, 2008)
2008 World Indoor 60m Champion
2008 USA Indoor 60m Champion
2003 World Indoor 60m silver medalist (Birmingham, GBR)
2003 USA 60m champion
2002 NCAA Indoor 60m champ
2002 USA Indoor 60m runner-up
2001 World Indoor 60m silver medalist (Lisboa, Por)
2001 USA Indoor 60m runner-up
1998 National Scholastic Indoor 60m Champion
1997 National Scholastic Indoor 60m Champion
1996 National Scholastic Indoor 60m Champion
4-time NCAA 100m champion (1999 (set USC School Record and American Junior Record at 11.04,), 2000, 2001, 2002)
Two-time Pac 10 100m Champion (2000 and 2002)
1999 Pac 10 100m Silver Medalist (in meet record time of 11.34)
Two-time Pan Am Games 100m silver medalist (99, 03)
Two-time US Bronze Medalist (1999 and 2001)
1999 World University Games Champion
3-time U.S. Junior 100m champion (95, 97, 98 - Set High school record in 1998 11.11)
1998 World Junior silver (100m) medalist (Annecy, Fra)
1998 California HS State Champion at 100m, 200m and LJ
World best junior performance at 100m in 1997
1997 Pan Am Junior champion in 100m
1995 Pan Am Junior silver medalist (100m)
Four-time US Junior Champion (1995, 1997, 1998, and 1999)
2000 Pac 10 200m Champion
2001 Pac 10 200m Silver Medalist
2002 Pac 10 200m Bronze Medalist
1998 California HS State Champion at 200m
1997 National Scholastic Indoor 200m Champion
1996 National Scholastic Indoor 200m Champion
2003 World Outdoor 4x100m silver medalist (lead off leg)
2003 Pan Am 4x100m gold medalist (lead off leg)
2002 NCAA bronze (4x100m) medalist (lead off leg)
2001 World Outdoor 4x100m relay gold medalist (lead off leg in first round)
2001 NCAA silver (4x100m) medalist (lead off leg)
2000 NCAA gold (4x100m) medalist (lead off leg)
1999 World University Games 4x100m gold medalist
1999 Pan Am 4x100m silver medalist (second leg)
1998 World Junior gold (4x100m) medalist (lead off leg) (team set American Junior Record)
1997 Pan Am Junior champion in 4x100m (lead off leg) - Meet record of 44.02
1995 Pan Am Junior gold (4x100m) medalist (anchor leg)
Set USC School Record at 100m in 1999 with time of 11.04
Set American Junior Record at 100m in 1999 with time of 11.04
Set Pac 10 100m meet record in 1999 with time of 11.34)
Set High school 100m record in 1998 with time of 11.11)
Set the US Junior Record for 100 meters in 1998 (11.11)
Was the first high school female to break 11.0 seconds (10.95w) in 1997.
Member of 4x100m American Junior Record Team with a time of 43.52 in 1998
Member of Pan Am Junior Meet record in 4x100m with a time of 44.02 in 1997
Rankings 100 meters:
1997 - 7th in US
1998 - 8th in US
1999 - 4th in US 9th in World
2000 - 7th in US
2001 - 4th in US
2002 - 5th in US
2003 - 5th in US
2004 - 8th in US
Sources: 2007 USA Track & Field Media Guide and Fast Annual, 2005 USA Track & Field Media Guide and Fast Annual, www.usatf.org, www.iaaf.org.
The 2008 World Indoor Championships
Dr. Track: You have been competing successfully at a very high level since 1995. Now you have won your first individual world championship. How does this rank among your accomplishments in the sport so far?
Williams: I am truly blessed and excited to have accomplished this victory. Like all the others, it is important to me, because I put a lot of hard work and dedication into what I do. This victory means a lot at this moment because it comes at a time in my life when I have been going through a lot of ups and downs. Many obstacles have come my way, from shin fractures to surgery, to a torn hamstring and a fractured back last summer, leaving me thinking I couldn’t run again. So to dig deep and have such awesome support and family to encourage me not to give up and keep me going through all the pain of therapy to get where I am today is a miracle in my life. This confirms that I am not out of the game yet. I am a champion and I cannot give up on myself.
Dr. Track: What was your initial reaction to winning the 2008 World Championships at 60 meters?
Williams: I just started crying and thanking God for blessing me to get to this point. I was a ball of nerves all day waiting to get to the final and I just kept praying for peace and strength to do my best and stay injury free. I started thinking about my journey to get here and all my family and friends that I had made proud. They are with me in spirit every step of the way and this victory means a lot to many. It is more than a medal or a comeback for Angela Williams. It’s bigger than me. It brings hope, a sign of faith, telling those who saw my struggles that they too can make it through their ups and downs come out on top.
Dr. Track: Did the fact that you earned silver medals at the 2001 and 2003 World Championships play a role in your preparation and / or motivation for the 2008 meet?
Williams: It is a good confidence builder to know I have been in a big competition such as this before, so I brought experience with me. Those were so long ago and so much has happened. I just told myself look, you have been here before and it is time to get gold.
Goals for 2008 and beyond
Dr. Track: What are your major goals for 2008? Does willing the World Indoor Championship 60 change your goals in any way?
Williams: Winning doesn’t change my goals. They just help me to work harder and believe that the other goals are attainable. It gives me more confidence to know I am on the right track. Major goals are to make the Olympic team in an individual event, win a medal at the Olympics, run sub 11 seconds this year in the 100 meter dash and low to mid 22s in the 200 meter dash, and finish in the top 5 in the world.
Dr. Track: What would make for your perfect outdoor season in 2008?
Williams: Staying healthy and accomplishing all those goals I just mentioned would make for a perfect outdoor season.
Dr. Track: In the short term - this year - the major focus is the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Is that correct? What are your longer-term goals?
Williams: Longer-term goals are to continue to be successful, make all the teams for each year in individual events, medal, and be number 1 in the world before my career is over.
Competitive Plans for 2008
Dr. Track: How well defined is your racing schedule for 2008?
Williams: I am taking things day by day, I have an idea of what I would like to do, but there are so many factors that come into play with getting into meets, that I have no idea where I will be running. But I am just excited to be back competing healthy and having fun again. I am free and at peace.
Dr. Track: What events will you run this year? Is any one event the major focus?
Williams: I will run the 200 meter dash, 100 meter dash, and relays. My main focus is the 100 meters.
Dr. Track: There are many track and field fans here in the US that would love to watch you compete. Where will you compete in the US this year?
Williams: Unfortunately due to politics of track it is difficult to say where I will be running. I know where I would like to run. As for relay meets, I will be at Florida relays, Penn relays (hopefully), Mt. Sac relays (maybe), Kansas relays, and I hope to be at the Reebok meet in New York, the meet in Carson, CA, Prefontaine, and so on.
Dr. Track: How many meets / races do you expect to run prior to the Olympic Games?
Williams: I have no idea, it is all up to how training is going, my coach’s thoughts and what meets are available for me to compete in.
Dr. Track: The 200 meter dash is a golden league event in 2008. Do you plan to compete in the IAAF Golden League Meets in 2008?
Williams: Yes I do plan on running in those meets, if possible.
Dr. Track: In which European other meets do you plan to compete in 2008?
Williams: I have no clue at this point, it is all up to which meets invite me.
Angela with Youth members of the Southern
Dr. Track: Who are your major competitors here in the US? From the rest of the world?
Williams: Everyone is competition. I never underestimate anyone or take things for granted. This is because I feel a race can be won by anyone on any given day. We are all working towards the same thing.
Dr. Track: Carolina Kluft was the first World Junior Champion to win an Olympic Gold Medal. Will you be the second and first sprinter to do so?
Williams: God willing, I will be. I am taking things one day at a time and having fun, keeping things simple, and praising God all the way.
Dr. Track: Which club / sponsor do you represent? Who is your agent?
Williams: I represent Nike and my coach is Garfield Ellenwood. My agent is Robert Wagner.
Dr. Track: You were based in Southern California for most of your career. Where do you train now?
Williams: I have been in California actually all of my life, born and raised. I went to college at USC, so I had never left California until this past October. I decided to go to Daytona Beach, Florida to train with my current coach.
Dr. Track: How long have you been training under his direction?
Williams: In the middle of 2006 season, I cut things short and went back to my father, Johnny Williams. He had been my coach since I was young and through high school and he keeps things simple and fun. I needed to be with my dad for support, to help build my confidence back up and get my fitness level back where it needed to be in order to be successful at this level in track in field. Then in 2007 we decided to start getting some work done with Garfield Ellenwood, who is the head coach at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. We liked his enthusiasm and passion to want to see me succeed as much as I want it. He is young and has fresh ideas and is very eager to constantly learn and keep improving. That is what we wanted. I never want to act like I know everything and that there isn’t more to learn.
When I first started working with Coach Ellenwood, I would fly out to Florida and train for a week or two at a time, and stay at his home with his family. I travelled back and forth like this for about three months and when home in California, I did my training with my dad.
I saw results quickly and so I decided to make the move completely, instead of my periodic trips to Florida for some technical training.
Dr. Track: Why the coaching change?
Williams: I was not at peace with things in my life. I was frustrated about a lot of stuff going on. My confidence had gone down and I know where I come from and what I have accomplished and I knew to get back there and beyond, changes had to be made. I needed to surround myself with my family who loves me regardless of what medals or money I win, but for what I stand for when I am competing. I needed that positive motivation, knowing that I was working with two coaches, my father, the old school and Garfield Ellenwood, the new school. I had the best of both worlds and all they want for me is the best. When you know you have people in your corner that have no doubt about what you can do, that alone boosts your confidence and makes you work harder.
Dr. Track: How has the coaching change been beneficial?
Williams: I have gotten stronger and more disciplined in the weight room. I now understand how vital it is to work just as hard there as it is on the track. My fitness level has gone up so much and I am staying healthy. We don’t push beyond what my body can do. We are worker smarter now. Being efficient.
Dr. Track: What do you expect to be your training focus for this year?
Williams: Now it is time to focus up for the 100 meter dash and I want to run sub 11 seconds this year. It is time to break that barrier and also make the Olympic team in an individual event. I plan on putting in a lot of over distance, for me that would be 400s, and I want to get my 200 meters together. With more strength, the 100m will be easier and I can carry my speed longer. I want to train hard and stay healthy.
Dr. Track: Please describe your typical training days. How many sessions per day? How long is each session?
Williams: I train 5 days a week, but Wednesday tends to be a down day, in that it may be pool or something like that, to keep from pounding the body hard all the time. I go to the track around 10:15 AM and train. I am usually done about 1 PM and head over to the weight room. I lift and then by the time I finish lifting the college track team may be coming in and I assist with their lifts and core and ab strengthening, so I stay there to get them through their workouts. That doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, its cool. I enjoy working with them, encouraging them to be successful. I go home cook and relax, call my family, cause I miss them everyday, and get up to do it again. I get massages twice a week in the evenings.
Dr. Track: Do you have any training partners? Who are they? How do they help with your daily training and overall preparations for competing during this Olympic year?
Williams: Kia Davis who runs the 400 meter dash and Christine Spence who runs the 400 hurdles are my training partners. I also train with some of the college guys, Dante and Jarrett, who help me when its time to line up in the blocks. We go at it, competing. It gives me that edge. We all help one another in that we try and stay positive and find the good in everything, so we can move forward. We push one another to keep going on those days when we are tired and hurting and feel like we can’t make it around the track, we cheer for one another at practice. It’s great.
Dr. Track: What do you do to naturally enhance / speed recovery from training?
Williams: Unfortunately, I have had several injuries in the past 5 years and with that some good did come, in that I have learned a lot about my body and the importance of maintenance and recovery work. Now is it not only important for me to train hard at the track, but to also make sure I am doing preventive stuff to stay healthy and injury free. So now I have a massage therapist that works on me twice a week, just to help flush any lactic acid in my legs from those hard workout days. I take ice baths regularly. I used to do it almost everyday after practice, but now I go in twice a week, usually on heavier load days on the track. It helps to keep any inflammation out that may be arising, and I feel fresh and ready to train hard the next day.
I also have several exercises I do to continue to keep my lower back strengthened. So a lot of sit-ups and other core stabilization exercises, as well as stretching.
Getting plenty of rest plays a huge roll in helping me recover. When I feel my body wearing out and I don’t feel right at practice, I tell my coach and we back off. We either just rest completely for the day and try and come back the next day, or we go to the pool. Overloading the body, can actually work against you and push you backwards. It tends to lead to injuries also. I take naps whenever possible too, because our body heals and muscles repair and build, while we are sleeping.
Listen to your body and don’t push beyond what it can do. Rest is key. You always have tomorrow, but if you get hurt today, you may be out for longer than you like.
Dr. Track: What are you doing to prevent the injuries that have plagued you in recent years?
Williams: I still have exercises from my therapy that I do daily. I am big on core and ab work, so I keep my back stable and I stretch a lot. As for my shin issues, I continue to wear my orthotics and I cross train, so I don’t stay on one hard surface everyday and I don’t train in spikes everyday. When I feel something wrong, I listen to my body, instead of being tough all the time and ignoring signs and address the situation before it gets worse.
Angela Williams with youth members of the
Southern California Cheetahs
Dr. Track: Champion athletes often develop a broad fan base among elementary, middle school, and high school students. When you were in high school and earlier, who did you look up to? Who were your role models? How did they influence your career?
Williams: My parents are my role models. They have strength beyond understanding. When things aren’t right, they never give up and stand firm. They have great values and have taught me so much. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them. Always loving me for who I am regardless of what I do, how I finish in a meet, etc. They are my support system and I go to them for everything. They are my best friends. They have been with me through everything and have felt what I have felt and I love them for never failing me.
My parents are whom I have always looked up to, for their strength to keep me positive and working hard regardless of the obstacles and distractions that may go on around me. They didn’t have the best of everything, but they did everything in their power to make sure I wanted for nothing.
When it comes to athletes, as a young girl, I didn’t too focus on who was out there, but as I got older and became professional, I started to admire Allen Johnson, the 110-hurdler. He has been around for many years and to me, has not received his just due, for all the hard work and great accomplishments he has done. He is good for the sport and I like how he shares his experiences, so that the younger athletes behind him may learn something and not make the same mistakes he did. He has stayed humble all these years and has a great personality.
Dr. Track: Now that you are one of the Champion athletes, how do you give back to the school and youth club communities? What do you do to live up to the role model status you have achieved?
Williams: I have always been a person to be involved in my community even when I wasn’t competing as well as I wanted to. I go to schools and motivate them to work hard; I have spoken at sports conferences and youth correctional facilities about all sorts of things. The main focus is to motivate our youth to do positive things with their lives and never give up on themselves, no matter what everyone else around them is saying. I believe that as a young Christian woman, it is important for me to use my gift in such a way that can change lives and make a difference.
Also, I have a sports training business called Elite Core Personal Training, based out of Covina, Ca., and it consists of my father who has been a coach and personal trainer for years, myself, my sister Joni David, who is a fitness model and trainer, and Jason David, who is a NFL player for the Saints. It’s a young group of other athletes who have come together to host sports camps and clinics to help our surrounding community with sports performance and inspiring them at the same time. This is something I want to do after my track career.
Youth members of the Southern California
Dr. Track: How often do you visit the Southern California Cheetahs?
Williams: Whenever I go home to California, I try and get involved in my community. My dad had been the head coach for the Southern California Cheetahs youth team – “the little Cheetahs” – for over 6 years and he still volunteer coaches with the kids. So I go out and visit and talk with them and help my dad coach, when I can.
It is great to see the youth program still going on, it brings back great memories and was a good stepping-stone towards building excellent athletes of the future. I pray that it will never end, giving kids something to do and finding their gifts. I enjoy giving back and think it is part of my gift, as a role model, it is a part of my responsibility as well.
Dr. Track: Angela, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Best wishes for continued success in Track and Field and in life. I hope that you realize many of your goals this year.