WRITTEN FOR TEAM 2012 VISA (ON FEB 9TH)
After playing second-fiddle to his fierce British rival all last season, Rhys Williams is determined to turn the tables and firmly establish himself on the global scene this year, in the countdown to his Olympic debut in London next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
Although the 26-year-old Welshman reduced his 400m hurdles lifetime best to 48.96 in 2010, he still finished behind his countryman Dai Greene on the big occasions and ended his campaign more than a second adrift of his toughest competitor.
Twice – in the European championships in Barcelona in July and in the Commonwealth
Games in Delhi last October – Williams had to play number-two on both the British and Welsh lists but as the year marked a comeback from injury, there is surely far more to come.
The son of rugby union legend JJ, Williams’ resurgence back onto the international scene and to ninth on the British all-time lists was indeed impressive following years of crippling injury woes.
Since capturing the 2003 and 2005 European junior and under23 titles, the tall one-lap hurdler burst into the British senior top spot but then missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons through injury.
His lowest point was being forced to concede a spot in the Beijing Olympic Games due to a stress fracture in his right foot - a problem which flared up after attempting to win the UK trials in a last-gasp attempt following a year out with the problem:
“It would be difficult for me to say and for most people to understand, how 2008 and 2009 went for me,” explained Williams.
“I went from having a good season in 2006 (taking European and Commonwealth bronze) to hardly being able to jog, let alone sprint, for two years due to a series of injuries.
Missing the Olympics was tough to accept. I know it may sound cheesy, but overcoming my injury through perseverance is my biggest achievement to date. I learnt a lot about myself in that short space of time.”
Training at Lee Valley athletics centre in London with Dan Pffaff, Williams trains alongside Dwain Chambers, Christian Malcolm and Rob Tobin, and is currently feeling the benefits of focusing on his speed:
“I’m feeling great and optimistic for the season ahead - the last two seasons have been really progressive,” Williams revealed.
Having just completed a Masters degree in history, Williams is searching for another course to complete to keep his mind off the athletic pressures:
“For me, it’s all about switching off, as I have athletics and aiming to be the best on my brain all the time, 24/7,” he explained.
“So I do anything it takes not to think of athletics. I don't watch it on TV or look at results even, as it makes me want to go out and train even harder, which isn't always conducive to running faster.
I live a quiet life if I’m honest, as that's the way it has got be in order to get the most out of yourself.”
With a steely killer ambition to be re-assert himself as the UK number-one and to be the best in the world, Williams will begin his outdoor racing campaign in May on the grand-prix circuit in preparation for a tilt at global glory.
A promising rugby player in his youth as well an international swimmer until aged eighteen, Williams leaves no room for emotion in his quest for perfection:
“I detest my rivals on the track and that’s why they are your rivals,” he revealed.
“The event’s in great health with lots of talent, so it’s a real competitive event.
I’d like to medal at the World championships (in Daegu, South Korea this August) - it will be a dress rehearsal for the London Olympics and I don’t see why I can’t medal there if I can improve the way I think I will this season and perform at the World’s.”
Should his sharp progression continue for the next seventeen months then Williams’ Olympic debut on British soil could well provide a fitting reward for the man who has bounced back from several stress fractures and operations during his track career.
“I’d like to retire from the sport well-known and respected and with many titles,” Williams explained.
Judging by his form in only his second full-season back from the brink of retirement, this Welsh wonder may graduate into a golden athlete just yet.