There are many variables when it comes to the World Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Within the medal count there are always surprises for a country, both good and bad, that make the meet memorable.
At the recent IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Team USA won a total of 25 medals, which was its second most in the history of the World Championships. It was names like Jillian Camarena-Williams that helped to make the difference.
Camarena-Williams picked up a bronze medal in the women’s shot put to become the first ever female member of Team USA to win a medal in the event at a World Championships. It proved to be an important variable for her team’s total medal count, but to Camarena-Williams it was anything but a surprise.
“I really felt I was ready to go out there and compete with the top girls,” she said. “We knew what I needed to throw to get a medal and with how my training was going, I knew I could do it. I would say I did not surprise myself at getting a medal.
“After they put that medal around my neck; then I could not believe it.”
Camarena-Williams proved to be the epitome of what her World Championships medal represents. She talked about her hard work in getting there. She talked about the pride she had in seeing the American flag being raised at her ceremony. She talked about setting goals and making progress to achieve them. Most importantly, she talked about having fun doing it.
The bronze medal solidified her on the international stage in the women’s shot put. It was an appropriate exclamation point on a breakthrough season for Camarena-Williams.
“This season has been so amazing for me,” she said. “I know some may say being in the top 10 the last few years was good, but the top three girls just always seemed so much further than I was throwing. Now I really feel like I belong there.”
Her performance throughout the 2011 season leaves little doubt Camarena-Williams belongs among the best in the world. In February at the USA Indoor Championships, she broke Ramona Pagel’s 24-year-old American record with a winning toss of 19.87 meters/65 feet, 2.25 inches. During the outdoor season in the Paris Diamond League, she came close to duplicating that feat when she tied Pagel’s outdoor American record at 20.18m/66-2.5. Pagel initially set that mark in 1988.
“I remember getting a text message from her (Pagel) saying it was nice to share it with me for at least one more week,” Camarena-Williams said. “She has always been a huge supporter in my career and I am so glad to have her cheering me on. It was such an honor to have tied the record with such an amazing person and one of my role models.”
Camarena-Williams hopes it’s a sign of things to come. American shot putters have definitely been present on the world stage, but it’s the emergence of the women’s shot put that has her optimistic for the future.
The names of Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and Adam Nelson have all but dominated the men’s event on the international level for the Americans. Camarena-Williams, along with names such as Michelle Carter, have the potential to bring American females into the mix.
“Obviously the men have been really strong in the shot put for many years, but the women have struggled until now,” Camarena-Williams said. “I think with Michelle and I the women’s shot put in the U.S. is going to make a real run next year in London. It is so great to have a talented girl like Michelle pushing me and beating me since it fuels my fire.”
The two have created an American duo in the women’s shot put Team USA hopes to land on the medal podium next summer at the Olympic Games in London. Owning an impressive resume herself, Carter is a three-time USA Outdoor champion in the event, which includes the 2011 national title when Camarena-Williams placed second. Carter placed ninth in the final in Daegu.
“I feel like we both understand how great this is for our sport and we want women’s shot putting to be as successful as the men have been,” Camarena-Williams said. “We have such talented athletes in the U.S. and we just hope we are laying a path so that others can come out of the college system with the same amount of support we have had.”
Support will not be a problem as she prepares for a hopeful repeat performance in 2012.
When the 2012 Olympic Games do come around next summer, Camarena-Williams will definitely become a variable when Team USA tries to improve on its 25 medals from the World Championships. However, her expectation may have switched from being a hopeful to now becoming one of the favorites.
USA Track & Field