As the track and field season prepares to hit high gear, the performances of reigning World 400m champion Antonio Watson is among those that will attract some degree of interest, as Jamaican sporting enthusiasts, in particularly, have harboured hopes that he can repeat his gold medal-winning feat at this Summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

But amidst the anticipation and scrutiny of track and field fans, who often accept nothing short of excellence, Watson remains unfazed, exuding an aura of calm and confidence that all but indicates his readiness for the tasks ahead.

In fact, Watson in sharing his outlook for the business end of the season, revealed a mindset rooted in resilience and self-assurance, as he prepares to grace the track for a second time over 400m this year at the sixth edition of the Racers Grand Prix, on June 1.

“No pressure. I'm not really pressured because I'm just focusing on myself and executing my races to the best of my ability. Yes, the title of World Champion comes with some amount of pressure to perform, but the aim is just to perform at my best,” Watson said during the event's launch at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, on Tuesday.

 Antonio Watson ease across the line to win the men's 400m B final at the Racers Grand Prix inside the National Stadium on Saturday.

“I am still trying to gauge my competition form because I haven't run in 400m since my race in February, but I'm feeling good in training, so I'm just excited to go out there and try to ensure that my fans and my friends have a wonderful show,” he added.

Interestingly, it was at the Racers Grand Prix that Watson broke the 45-second barrier for the first time in his career, and from there, he went on to top a quality World Championships field, with a new personal best 44.13s, in Budapest.

With that in mind, the 22-year-old has every reason to be confident, especially after proving that he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Apart from the pedestrian 46.10s he clocked in February, Watson also had a 200m breeze at the Velocity Fest in March, where he clocked 20.84s.

“Well, I'm very excited about it. It's my second year competing at Racers Grand Prix, and I enjoyed last year, so I just want to go out there this year again and put on another good show. My training has been good, I’ve been working on a lot of things over the past few weeks, getting them right, so I'm really excited to just go out there and perform, as the aim for this season is to lower my personal best, obviously, and also get more silverware this season,” he declared.

Despite his achievements, over the past year, Watson remains humble and grounded, never allowing room for complacency or even to underestimate his opponents. This, as he won’t be facing a field of the World Championships or Olympic Games quality, but still views other competitors as equals.

Along with Watson, the 400m field for the Racers Grand Prix includes, American Champion Allison, Nigerian NCAA champion Emmanuel Bamidele, Demish Gaye, Zandrion Barnes and Javon Francis.

“For me, everyone is a threat because just like how I popped up last year, anyone can come out here and pop up this year. So I'm not downgrading anyone, these are good athletes Champion Allison is a sub-44 man, so too is Bamidele from Nigeria.

“So it's a good field and I am looking forward to competing against them. It's going to be a big race and one that sets me up for trials and possibly the Olympics after. So it's going to be a very important race for me and I am just trying to go out there, perform to my best and hopefully get a great time,” Watson shared.

While the rigors of training under celebrated coach Glen Mills at Racers Track Club can sometimes be overwhelming, Watson is unflinching in his desire to achieve excellence and, as such, leaves no stone unturned, as he braces for the challenges to come in the quest for greatness.

“For me, hearing from coach daily really boosts me. He always has encouraging words and when I'm not performing or training to my best, he always points it out. So, for me it's good and also can be stressful at times, but coach says I'm on the right path, so I'm just sticking to the path that I am on, and hopefully I can better it,” Watson reasoned.

“So, once I turn up at training, I'm ready to train, sometimes, it's hard to be focused for a million and one reasons, but as a professional, you have to know that it is time for you to be focused. So, I always try to stay locked in, and I have a good team around me that keeps me focused and ensures that I'm ready,” he ended.

 

Celebrated coach and Racers Track Club President Glen Mills says the value of meets such as the Racers Grand Prix cannot be overstated, given the significant role it plays in the development of the country’s young athletes in particular.

Mills’s comments came as he announced the plethora of local and international stars that are expected to set this year’s sixth edition of the Racers Grand Prix alight at the National Stadium on June 1.

Among them is American World champion Noah Lyles, who clocked a superb 19.67s to win the 200m, sharing the spotlight with Jamaica's Shericka Jackson and South African Wayde Van Niekerk last year.

He is set to line up in the men’s 100m on this occasion, alongside rising Jamaican sensation Oblique Seville, World University champion Kadrian Goldson, Great Britain’s World Championships bronze medallist Zharnel Hughes, Canadian Aaron Brown and American Kendal Williams, with two more athletes to be confirmed.

According to Mills, who was instrumental in the decorated career of now-retired Usain Bolt, having young athletes compete on home soil against world class superstars not only drives their development, but also influences positive behavioural changes towards training.

Reigning 400m World champion Antonio Watson is one such example, as he broke the 45-second barrier for the first time on his debut outing at the event last year, and he later followed that up by topping a quality field in Budapest, Hungary. 

“A meet of this level is very important in development of our athletes, and I don't think we can underscore its value in their development as a coach. I can tell you, when we have them competing here in Jamaica against the world and the fans come out and really cheer for them, it makes a difference when they return to the training field,” Mills said during the event’s launch at the Jamaica Pegasus on Tuesday.

“They know and feel the support and the energy and electricity. When that happens, we get better performances on the training track, and as you can see, it goes on to the international stage as well. So, thank you for supporting Racers Grand Prix all and I'm hoping to see everyone on June 1,” he added.

Known globally as Jamaica’s foremost track and field meet credited with showcasing many of Jamaica’s most decorated athletes, Racers Grand Prix, a World Athletics Continental Tour Silver event, promises an exhilarating demonstration of athletic excellence.

There are 13 events –men’s and women’s 100m, 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 110m hurdles, as well as the men’s long jump, triple jump and discus throw –to be contested across two-and-a-half hours of scintillating action starting at 7:00pm.

The women's 100m hurdles is headlined by Bahamas’s World Indoor champion Devynne Charlton, and Great Britain’s Cindy Sember, up against Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper and rising Jamaican sensation Ackera Nugent.