Shericka Jackson was in doubt about her ability to win a medal at the Olympic Games, but she drew inspiration from a coach, a training partner and a family member to cop the bronze medal at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro Monday evening.
Jackson, who also won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Beijing, China last year, was in Italy at her MVP club’s training camp, when faced with the reality of the Olympic Games, her spirit waned.
She then used the reassuring words of coach Stephen Francis, coupled with training partner’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s encouragement and then gallant run in the 100 metres at the Games, as well as being motivated by wanting to stand on the podium on her father’s birthday, as the catalyst to propel her to the bronze medal.
She said, “this year, when I was in Italy I was really worried and I remember saying to my coach, ‘coach if I don’t perform good at Olympics please don’t go too hard on me’. And he said, ‘don’t worry, you have got this’.
“I had a little doubt at first, but before the Jamaica Trials, Shelly spoke to me about getting there again. Also, I think watching Shelly-Ann in the 100 metres final, I said to myself ‘if Shelly-Ann can run through so much pain, I can do it.
“I am getting a medal on my father’s (Desmond) birthday so I am happy. Give God thanks, I was able to come out here and get a medal. I am really really happy and words can’t explain how I feel right now. I am feeling good. At the age of 22 I am an Olympic medallist, so I can’t complain,” she said.
Fraser-Pryce had earlier won a bronze medal in the women’s 100 metres, a feat which look unachievable at on stage, because of a toe injury that prevented from training fully and affected her at the competitive level. She battled through pain to win her semifinal heat before returning less than two hours later to win the bronze.
Although not executing to plan, Jackson was comfortable with what unfolded during the race, which was won by Bahamas Shaunae Miller in 49.44 seconds, that dethroned Allyson Felix of the United States of America, who was in second with 49.51. Jackson did 49.85.
She said, “I was disappointed last year when I left Beijing, because I run 50.03 in the semifinal not pushing that hard like in the final, when I almost run the same time and I was disappointed. This time around I wanted to run much faster, and I ran faster, so I am grateful.
“That wasn’t the plan,” she continued in reference to a slow start and having to work hard in the final 100 metres to gain the medal. “The plan was to get out like yesterday (Sunday’s semifinals), but I guess I lost it a bit and I tried to pick up my last 200 as fast as possible, but I guess I get a bronze medal so I have to be grateful.
“I always tell myself that it could be anyone’s race. Nobody expected me to get a medal so I just wanted to go out there and get a medal and even if I didn’t get a medal, I wanted a personal best. Coach said all his athletes were going to get a personal best and I did a personal best plus almost another personal best so I am feeling good,” she said.
Jackson ran 45.83 seconds in the semifinals, to establish a new personal best.
Apart from being one of her inspiring factors, Jackson heaped praises on coach Francis, who have guided her to the top-class medals that she has won this early in her career.
“He is a genius, that’s all I can say. I think he is a very patient person and he knows when to peak an athlete and how to approach going into a championship. And I think I get a little mental strength from him, knowing how in Italy I lost it a bit and he was pushing me. I think he knows I could do it, but did I?”
According to Jackson, her career is motivated by the energy she gets from those close to her.
She said, “I am a person who don’t really like to lose, but if I lose I can stand it. I think my family motivates me a lot, because right now I think Mansfield Heights and Shaw Park Heights are going crazy, because my family my friends, they support me 100 per cent, especially Mansfield Heights.”
Jackson, who says she still possess a love for the 200 metres, which she did during her days at Vere Technical but has almost abandoned it for the 400 metres, is pumped up to battle the Americans for the gold medal in the 4×400 metres relay.
“Nothing is impossible (winning the gold). We are going out there with our A game. I really want my teammates to get a medal because I got a medal and I really want them to get a medal. So I will just rest up and give it my best and hope for the best,” she said.
Jackson also had strong words of commendation for both Miller and Felix.
“Shaunae was the world leader and I think she really wanted it so she went for it and she got it. I am really happy for her. I knew her from Carifta days and she is a warrior from then, because we have been rivals for quite sometime now.
“Alyson is a great person. I have been watching her from a tender age and never knew that I would have been in a race with her. I think she is my inspiration and she is a warrior. She wanted it tonight but I think it was Shaunae’s time and the best person won,” she said.
At the end of it all, she will achieve her object of being on the podium on Tuesday, her father’s birthday and she delivered this message to him: “happy birthday daddy and I really love you.”