|Williams-Darling working with the juniors in London|
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Jul 30, 2012
LONDON, England – Tonique Williams-Darling is revered the world over, and even though she is not a member of this year’s Olympic team, just her presence is expected to motivate some of the younger athletes to perform at their best.
Half of The Bahamas’ 26-member team in London, England is under 25 years of age. It represents a true changing of the guard in Bahamian athletics.
As a former World, Olympic and Golden League Champion, Williams-Darling knows what it takes to get to the top. She served as a mentor on the young team that traveled to the World Junior Championships this year, and now she’s in London as the chaperone of the Olympic team.
“It’s truly a pleasure to be here at the London Olympics. It’s been a great experience so far,” she said in an interview.
“I’m just really excited to lend assistance to this team and mentor the young athletes. For many of them, this is their first Olympics.
They have a lot of questions and a lot of anxiety. I’m here to make things smooth for them.”
It was Williams-Darling’s junior national record that Shaunae Miller broke at the 2010 World Junior Championships, in Moncton, Canada. Miller is ahead of Williams-Darling’s progression at this stage of her athletic career, and could very well challenge for the outdoor national record one day.
At 18, Miller has a personal best time of 51.25 seconds in the 400 meters (m), but she still has quite a way to go to match or surpass Williams-Darling’s national record time of 49.07 seconds.
Williams-Darling has taken the younger athletes under her wing, guiding them and lending assistance wherever she can.
“I think that the younger athletes are responding to me very well,” she said. “I had an opportunity to gel with athletes like Shaunae and Anthonique at the World Juniors and have developed a strong working relationship with them.
“I’ve had a lot of questions asked to me from all of the young athletes here in London, not just the females but the males as well. They recognize what you would have accomplished and they want to get to that stage as well. There are always the questions of how I did it, or how did I handle the pressure, so it shows that they have a strong desire to excel as well.”
With her 49.07 clocking in Berlin, in 2004, Williams-Darling is the second highest ranking Bahamian ever in any individual event. She is the number 11 women’s quartermiler of all-time. The only Bahamian ranked higher on the all-time list is national record holder in the men’s high jump Troy Kemp. With his leap of 2.38m (7’ 9-3/4”) in Nice, France, in 1995, Kemp is tied for 10th on the all-time list.
“I think that they respect and look up to me. They’ve realized what I accomplished,” said Williams-Darling. “For them, their presence here and the fact that I was able to do it, shows them that they can perform as well, even though they might be from a small country.”