Williams v Campbell:

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Williams-Campbell rivalry to resume at Millrose Games
Friday 20 January 2006
20 January 2006 - When the gun will sound in the women’s 60 metre dash at next month’s Millrose Games in New York City (3 February), it will also signal the resumption of one of the freshest and most exciting rivalries in the sport today.

At the 2004 Olympic Games and last summer’s World Championships, four of the six medals in the 100 metres were claimed by Lauryn Williams and Veronica Campbell, and in both contests, the races could hardly have been closer.

Veronica Campbell of Jamaica wins the 100m at the World Athletics Final
(Getty Images/AFP)

In Athens, the young American took the silver medal in 10.96 to Cambell’s 10.97. The Jamaican later went on to a dominant win in the 200, before capping her 2004 season with a double win at the World Athletics Final. In Helsinki last August, it was Williams again who got the edge, this time by a scant two one-hundredths of a second in 10.93, as both moved up a step on the podium from their Olympic finishes.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting race,” the 22-year-old Williams said. “I know she’s training hard - that’s the sort of person she is.”

Campbell is just as eager to get her season underway.

Lauryn Williams of the USA wins the women’s 100m final
(Getty Images)

"Lauryn is a great competitor and I always have fun competing with her,” said the 23-year-old Campbell, whose only loss in eight 100m finals last year came to Williams at the World Championships. “This is going to be a very fun race.”

In 2004, the pair split their four meetings, while last year, Campbell took two of their three head-to-heads. In Zurich’s Weltklasse, Campbell powered through the finish en route to her 10.85 win, just three one-hundredths ahead of Williams, with both clocking personal bests. Only Monaco, where Campbell successfully defended her World Athletics Final title, didn’t produce a close race. Campbell got the win in 10.92, with Williams a distant third in 11.04.

The pair have been chasing each other for some time. In 2002, Williams succeeded Campbell as World Junior champion. Both are very aware of the others accomplishments, and share a very strong mutual respect.

Veronica Campbell of Jamaica outclasses all her rivals in Turin’s 200m
(Lorenzo Sampaolo)

“When I’m training, I’m training to beat Veronica,” said Williams, who will make her 2006 debut at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on 28 January. “And it’s been that way since 2004. Since 2004, I know there are other people who have beaten me. But when I’m training, and going to cheat on a sit-up, I say, ‘what is Veronica doing right now?’”

“I have a lot of respect for Lauryn and all of my competitors,” said Campbell, who will make her season’s debut at the Norwich Union International in Glasgow, also on 28 January. “In order to do well, you have to have somebody there. A true champion always needs somebody there to push them. [Millrose] should be a really great race. I know a lot of people are looking forward to it.”

Williams adds that their similarities don’t end with their nearly-equal speed.

“There are a lot of aspects of us that a lot of people compare, and I’ve got to admit they are similar. I can’t say anything bad about Veronica Campbell. People always confuse me for her - brown skin, short, our build. The big legs. When we’re overseas, I’ll occasionally sit down and have dinner with her. It’s a nice relationship.”

Campbell has run significantly faster indoors, with a personal best of 7.09, equaling the fastest performance of the season last year. Williams clocked her best of 7.22 in 2003, but didn’t compete at all indoors in 2005, suggesting the two are much closer over the short sprint than stats might indicate.

After the Millrose Games, the pair will square off again at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Campbell’s adopted home turf. After that, Williams is hoping to claim a team spot for the World Indoor Championships in Moscow, while Campbell’s attentions will shift outdoors to the Commonwealth Games.

Rounding out the Millrose Games field are Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas, the Athens 200-meter bronze medallist; Angela Daigle-Bowen, the 2005 USA Indoor champion at 60 metres who shared the world lead with Campbell over the distance; Me’Lisa Barber, the reigning U.S. 100m champion; and Angela Williams, a two-time World Indoor silver medallist.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF