BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – With a global medal already in his coffers, Antonio Watson was fully aware of the propensity and value of excelling on the world stage, as he journeyed for competition at the Youth Olympic Games on the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) platform ‘Generation Next’.
On Jamaica’s final day competing in track and field athletics, Tuesday October 16, Watson was draped in the National Flag, a vivid recognition of his silver medal-winning exploits in the boys’ 200 metres.
Though it was not the medal of colour he desired, Watson expressed distinction for yet another big time accomplishment.
“It’s always a great privilege winning on the World level so I feel very proud of myself. It’s a great experience, I couldn’t have asked for more, the conditions changed to suit the Caribbean athletes, so I can’t complain about it,” remarked Watson, who turned 17 years old in September.
About half-hour prior, he had scorched 21.08 seconds to claim third in Stage Two, Heat Two, the event with the fastest qualifiers. However, according to competition rules, a combination of times over both stages are used to determine medallists and thus Watson, who had won his Stage One heat in 21.33 seconds, in very cold conditions – below 15 degrees Celsius – emerged with silver.
Qatar’s Mohamed Abdelaziz, the fastest qualifier with a personal best 21.10, won Stage Two in 20.68 for a combined time of 41.78 seconds and the gold. Watson’s combined time was 42.21, while Brazil’s Lucas Conceicao, fourth with 21.68 in Stage One, ran a personal best 20.99 for a combined 42.67 and the bronze medal.
“(I’m) a bit disappointed knowing I’m the World Youth champion, I wanted to come out here and go home with a gold medal, but unfortunately that didn’t happen, God knows best,” Watson expressed. “I’m feeling proud that I came out with a medal.”
The Petersfield High School sprinter, with career best times of 10.66 over 100 metres, 20-56 in the 200m and 46.45 at 400m, had earned that golden feeling a year earlier, when he won took the 400 metres title at the last World Youth Championship (Under-18) in Nairobi, Kenya.
Back-to-back accomplishments at world level is further testament that when it comes to Antonio Watson’s track and field career, everything is carefully planned and prioritised. Much of it is directed by his coach, Machell Woolery, who was instrumental in luring the Trelawny native from somewhat distant Duncan’s Primary across parishes St. James and Hanover to the Westmoreland institution.
The parish from which he hails, Trelawny, is also somewhat special when it comes to Jamaica’s track and field athletics as it is home to some of Jamaica’s biggest stars in the sport, including Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Watson virtually hit the ground running at Petersfield as quite early he showed his range as a Class Three athlete by winning the 400-, 800-metre double and breaking the shot put record at Western Championships.
Later that season, Watson gave further evidence of his range when he returned to ‘Champs’ and won the 200 metres.
However, he had to embrace disappointment after being disqualified for a lane violation in the longest sprint.
In Class Two, he extended his success and also won the 400m gold and 200m silver.
The advertisement of his talent was noticeable, a star was on the rise.
Woolery, in an interview with award-winning blogger and sportswriter, Zaheer Clarke, made a telling comment that speaks to this day of the athlete’s awareness, propensity and value of excelling on the world stage.
Woolery said: “With regard to Watson though it is about World Youth Championships next year, it is not about Champs next year, we are going for the World Youth title next year in the 400m.”
Strategising paid dividends a year on with Watson’s success in Nairobi, which makes him historically the last 400-metre World Youth Champion as the event has now been scrapped.
That sort of priority – which was replicated by JOA President Christopher Samuda, CEO Ryan Foster and Jamaica’s head coach in Argentina, David Riley – was replicated for the Youth Olympics with Watson stating his aspirations ahead of competition in what is the background period, where athletes work on strength and not speed.
“It’s my dream to become world and Olympic champion at a junior age,” Watson had said. “It’s going to play a big part in how my future plays out.”
The dream never fully materialised. However, the prioritisation placed on Watson’s competitions has now yielded silver and wider promise for Jamaica’s ‘Generation Next’.