JESSICA Judd has proved to the world that she will be a force to be reckoned with in major championships for years to come.
That’s the view of the Canvey teenager’s coach, Rob Denmark, who said her fourth-placed finish in the Commonweath Games 800m final was a “tremendous achievement”.
A tearful Judd, 19, was heartbroken after Friday night’s final where she finished agonisingly short of the medals after admitting her legs “just died with 80 metres to go”.
But Denmark, himself a former Commonwealth Games champion over 5,000m, insisted his pupil had nothing to be disappointed about and that she should be proud of her time in Glasgow. Denmark also warned her rivals that Judd, who is still eligible to compete as a junior, is “nowhere near the finished article”.
“It was an amazing, amazing achievement,” said Denmark.
“The thing that has been forgotten in all of it is that she is still a junior. Everyone has forgotten that. She should still be competing in junior competitions and could have gone to the World Junior Championships this year instead.
“But we made a choice last year that the Commonwealth Games would be the priority because of what she would gain from it going into future championships in terms of her ability to learn about the processes.
“The processes at the Commonwealth Games are so far in advance of what we would learn from the World Juniors. For that, and that alone, the way she went through every round was a huge success.”
Judd showed remarkable maturity going through the championships.
After safely getting through her heat, she produced a commanding run to win her semi-final which raised her own expectations of a medal.
But it wasn’t to be in the final. Judd ran a perfect race and came into the home straight in bronze medal position but just ran out of steam in the closing stages.
The race was won by Kenya’s world champion Eunice Sum in 2m 00.31s with Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp winning silver (2m 1.34s) and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo (2m 1.91s) the bronze. Judd finished fourth in 2m 1.91s.
“It was an amazing achievement,” Denmark said. “And her semi-final was very special. Very, very special.
“The way she coped with it, the way she controlled it and ran away from a world-class field was really, really good. Everyone in that field wanted to do that and she did it. That alone was worth going to the Commonwealth Games for.
“Obviously you want more, I’m not going to lie. I’m not disappointed with her at all, but we all know what she is capable of, it just didn’t quite happen in the final. It was probably one race too many for her.
“There was no gap between the heat, semi-final and final and at this stage of her development, she may not have quite been ready to deal with that.
“But you have to remember she was beaten by the reigning World Champion (Sum), the European Champion (Sharp) and by someone who has run a second quicker than she has ever done (Nanyondo). It was absolutely a world class field.
“There was no failure at all. I was disappointed, but not with her. I was disappointed because the final was that close, but in terms of her and how she dealt with the whole experience and in particular that semi-final, it was pretty special.
“It was a shame it was not two rounds. Maybe it would have been different if it was. It was just not to be.
“But there are so many positive things to take away. It’s not a matter of needing to put things right, it’s just knowing how to do things a little bit better next time and that includes me because I’m part of that process too.
“I’ve learnt things. I’ve learnt how she reacts to rounds, how she recovers and that’s hugely beneficial.”
Judd will have little time to reflect on her Commonwealth Games experience as he next big championships is a little over a week away.
She will fly out to Zurich for the European Championships at the weekend and Denmark said that will be another learning experience for her as she builds towards being one of the best athletes in the world.
“She’s got the European Championships next and then we start preparing for next year,” Denmark said. “We are not being complacent, there are the World Championships next year and if she can qualify for that then it will put her in massive stead for the future.
“You have to look at the processes. What you are good at and then get better. And all this demonstrates she is on the right road.”