One of the UK’s leading sprinters Simeon Williamson, is currently training with one of the world’s most celebrated training groups, including Jamaica’s former world-record holder Asafa Powell, in a bid to continue his improvement into 2009 and beyond.
22-year-old Williamson, who made his Olympic debut in Beijing, where he reached the men’s 100m quarter finals is training at the University of Technology, Kingston, Jamaica under the watch of Stephen Francis.
As well as Powell - the second fastest man ever behind Olympic 100m champion Usain Bolt - the group includes Michael Frater and Nesta Carter, who along with Powell and Bolt won the 4x100m Olympic gold in Beijing for Jamaica in a world record time of 37.10.
Olympic women’s 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser, Olympic women’s 400m hurdles champion Melanie Walker, Olympic women’s 400m silver medallist Shericka Williams and Williamson’s cousin Germaine Mason, who won Olympic high jump silver for Team GB in Beijing but is currently recovering from knee surgery, also train within the group.
Olympic women’s 100m hurdles finalist and former World silver medallist Bridgette Foster-Hylton, former World men’s 100m silver medallist Darrel Brown (Trinidad & Tobago) and a series of rising University prospects complete the group. All in all, the group returned from Beijing clutching eight Olympic medals between them, including five gold.
Williamson, who last year slashed his 100m personal best to 10.03, travelled to Kingston on 15 November and is not due to return to the UK until 15 January. The rare and unique opportunity was made possible due to the family link with Mason, who spends the winter months training with the group for conditioning purposes.
The move was encouraged by Williamson’s personal coach and UK Athletics Performance Coach Lloyd Cowan, who has been in regular contact with Francis before and during the trip. Cowan will join his charge in Jamaica on 13 December for 10 days.
Williamson, who is usually based at UK Athletics North London High Performance Centre, Lee Valley said: “We train twice a day, everyday. In the morning we train from 5.30am until 8am and in the afternoon from 4.30 until 6pm and sleep and eat in between.
“Before I came Germaine (Mason) told me I would only have to get up twice a week for 5.30am. He probably thinks if he told me the truth, I wouldn’t have come! But that’s the way it is, so I just get on with it. It’s hard, but I’m enjoying it.
“At home, I would train just once a day and do everything in one session. Here, in the morning we run on the grass and run on the hills and in the afternoon, we do running drills and weights. We don’t run on a track. The facilities are very basic, nothing like at home.
“The gym at the University is tiny and there can be about 50 or so athletes in there, so you just have to get in line and take your turn. Some of the weights don’t fit on the bars properly either. But there’s no complaining. You just get on with it. They’re producing medallists here, so they’re doing something right.
“I’m feeling really fit and already I am much more lean. I operate much better in this type of environment. There are no distractions. There’s no driving around seeing mates like you might do at home. We just train, sleep and eat.
On coach Stephen Francis, he said: “He’s cool. He’s funny and jokey, but serious when he needs to be. Training should be enjoyable but we’re also there to work. Everyone is very professional, but very relaxed. The group is like a family. There is no split between guys like Asafa and the University students. Everyone trains together.
“Unlike the UK, the sessions are not tailor-made. It’s very straightforward. All the men do the same training and all the women do the same training.”
Eric Shirley, Director of the UK Athletics North London High Performance Centre: “It was felt that if there was a time to try something new, then it was now, while there is still plenty of time before London 2012. If it doesn’t work, then there is still time to get back on track and if it does work, then great.”
UK fans will get their first chance to see the leaner Williamson in action during this winter’s indoor season. He is due to race over 60m at the AVIVA European Trials & UK Championships at Sheffield on 14/15 February, where he will be targeting a place in the Norwich Union Great Britain & Northern Ireland Team for the 2009 European Indoor Championships in Turin, Italy on 6-8 March.
Meanwhile, Lloyd Cowan - who also coaches Olympic 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu - and four other leading UK coaches including Ayo Falola, Michael Afilaka, Harry King and Terry Lomax are currently attending the USA Track and Field National Sprints and Hurdles Conference in Las Vegas on 9-11 December.
Clyde Hart, former coach to Michael Johnson is one of the speakers at what is one of the world’ s foremost coaching conferences. The trip is being funded by UK Athletics as part of each coach’s Continual Personal Development Programme