Speaking ahead of today’s ceremony, Ato Boldon, coach of 16-year-old Jamaican sprinting sensation Briana Williams, says the athlete is thrilled and honoured to be nominated for a Laureus World Sports Award.
Williams commanded attention after winning the sprint double at the World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. She also won three gold medals at the Carifta Games and closed the year with personal-best times of 11.13 seconds in the 100m and 22.50 in the 200m.
She has been nominated in the Breakthrough Athlete of the Year category along with 20-year-old US Open winner Naomi Osaka; Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the 17-year-old European Championships gold medal winner in the 1500m and 5000m; Spain’s Ana Carrasco, who became the first woman to win a motorcycling world title; skier Sofia Goggia from Italy, who won the Olympic Downhill gold medal and the Downhill World Cup title; and UK cyclist Geraint Thomas, the Tour de France winner.
Boldon toldThe Gleaner that Williams was excited and motivated to be rubbing shoulders with sporting royalty.
“I think that’s (meeting sporting stars) her main motivation for the trip. Since she found out she was nominated, even before we could reveal it, she was excited to meet Lewis Hamilton, and Naomi Osaka and hopefully Serena Williams, and so on. She’s 16, and that’s a big part of the trip for her,” Boldon said through a series of text messages from Monte Carlo.
“For me, I have been introducing her to people that I know she has no idea who they are. So she has met Marcus Allen from the Oakland Raiders and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She has met Cafu and Edwin Moses, as well as Sergey Bubka. She has no idea how great any of these people are, but that’s part of my job to explain to her. She has been having a good time so far and it will only get better at the actual gala,” Boldon further shared.
Boldon added that they were both surprised by the nomination and pointed out that Williams has handled the increased international attention well.
“She had a great year and would I have nominated her? Yes, but this is the Oscars for sports, so it is a pleasant surprise. She was surprised as well, but very flattered and honoured,” Boldon said.
“I don’t worry about Briana being overwhelmed by the attention; she wants to be great. She knows enough about the sport to know that this is a part of it. Briana has been groomed to be a star on and off the track. She is experiencing some things for the first time – people outside wanting to take her picture and asking for autographs, people coming up to her – little kids from India knowing who she is and so on.
“To keep it in context, I know how important this is for Jamaica, for the Caribbean and for young women, and she is representing all three here,” Boldon said.
The Laureus World Sports Awards will take place at the prestigious Salle des Etoiles, part of The Sporting Club Monte Carlo.