OVER the last two years, Daniel Williams has become Guyana’s most consistent athlete on the track, earning on the international stage his silver medal in the 400M at the 2017 IAAF World U18 Championships, the world’s premier ‘show’ for junior athletes. His achievements should be taken for more than its ‘face value.’
Williams is 17-years-old (September 2, 2000) and attends the Mackenzie High School (MHS) in Linden, and in 2015, he found success at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examinations, gaining a Grade One pass, four Grade Twos and three Grade Threes in his eight subjects.
Williams would later move to Sixth Form at the same institution, where he completed Unit One at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and is now in the process of completing Unit Two and also has an aspiration of studying Mechanical Engineering.
Just to briefly reflect on his last two years on the track: 2016 South American U18 Championships in Athletics – Argentina (400M Silver, 200M Bronze, High Jump silver. He was the only athlete at the games to win three medals). 2017 South American U20 Championships in Athletics – Guyana (400M Silver, High Jump Silver, 4X100M silver). 2017 IAAF World U18 Championships, Nairobi, Kenya (400M Silver).
In 2016, Williams came second to Jamaica’s ‘next Usain Bolt’ Christopher Taylor in the 400M at the CARIFTA Games, but was disqualified for stepping on the line, coming off the turn on the final straight.
Williams is also the most decorated athlete at the National Schools Championships, owning records in the High Jump, 100M, 200M and 400M, competing in the U12, U14, U16 and U18 categories.
Some pundits believe that this could be the most rounded athlete Guyana has produced in ages, but they are also more concerned about his future and whether his fate would be that of the many who have had similar success stories on the track.
Several colleges on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have since come calling, after noticing his growth, especially in the 200M, where his 46.72 seconds was the second fastest in the world. In fact, Williams, in less than a year, has shaved nearly two seconds off his times in both the 200M and 400M. In 2012, at the IAAF World U20 Championships, held in Spain, Kadecia Baird, competing in the 400M, ran 51.04 seconds to finish second behind Americas Ashley Spencer, but ahead of Erika Rucker (USA). Baird would be the perfect example to use if anyone wants to know what it looks like when a promising athlete lacks the support of the Athletics Association of Guyana (AAG), the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA).
The American Spencer, since winning gold ahead of Guyana’s Baird, went on to grab gold in the 400M at the World Indoor Championships (2013), gold in the 4x400M relay at the 2013 World Championships, and bronze in the 400M hurdles at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
When Baird won silver in 2012, Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas came fourth in the same race. In 2013 at the CARIFTA Games, Baird was third to Miller in the 400M, and in 2014, the Guyanese won the 400M and was second in the 200M at the games in Martinique.
Today, Miller, 23, is the 400M Olympic Champion, while Baird, 22, is still competing on the NCAA level after transfer to Texas A&M from Nebraska over a year ago. Not since her last showing at the CARIFTA Games has Baird competed for Guyana on the International stage. To be fair, she has had a spell of injuries, but had rebounded to be fit enough to at least make a Commonwealth Games appearance.
The system in Guyana, especially the GOA, has failed Kadecia Baird. Just like Daniel Williams, after competing on the IAAF biggest stage for junior athletes, she caught the eyes of the world, but, while the people she defeated at the youth level had moved on to Olympic stardom, she (Baird) was robbed of her chance because of the lack of exposure while she was world-rated.
It is imperative that Williams be given the exposure now and not fall prey to the same fate of others. Usain Bolt was 18-years-old when he competed at the Olympic Games in 2004. He was the world’s fastest Junior athlete at the time in the 200M. The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) knew Bolt would not have medalled, but, they ensured that he (Bolt) was given the platform to introduce himself to the world and set the tone for the man we celebrate today as the fastest in the world.