6:39pm Monday 23rd July 2012
By Ryan Goad
JESSICA Judd’s reward for what she describes as the “greatest week of my life” was to have a short but well-earned break.
The 17-year-old won a silver medal in the 800m and was fifth in the 1,500m at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, setting personal best times in both finals.
This past week, the Canvey teenager has been busy. She’s gone back to school, acted as a time-keeper for her training partners, feasted at Nando’s. She’s done anything but run in fact. Yet throughout the week, memories of her time in Barcelona were never far from her mind.
“It was amazing, I loved it,” said Judd. “I remember getting there on the first day and looking around the stadium and thinking, ‘wow this is big’. And I think the event grew because of that. “The World Juniors is a big thing anyway and I know there are the Olympics, but out there it just felt like this was the biggest thing. It felt massive. It was really scary to go out there in that stadium and run.
“You come out of the tunnel and into the stadium and you really feel like everyone is watching you. So to run two PBs on that track was just amazing.”
Judd put herself through a gruelling schedule of five races in six days at the championships.
The 800m, now her strongest event, was first and she won a silver medal after a dramatic battle with American Ajee Wilson in the final straight saw her just pipped to victory.
Judd run 2m 0.96s, just five hundreths of a second behind Wilson. And that battle between the pair is something that has been tipped to go on to be played out at senior World Championships and Olympic Games.
Not that there’s any rivalry off the track between the duo.
“Funnily enough I saw her on the first day I got there at one of the warm-up tracks,” said Judd, who was beaten by Wilson at the World Youth Championships a year earlier.
“We were chatting and talking about our seasons and she said ‘I think I can go faster’ and I remember thinking to myself ‘I hope you don’t because I really want to beat you!’.
“But she is such a lovely person and a great athlete. We got on really well. I still want to beat her though!”
Unlike Judd, Wilson’s sole focus of the championships was the 800m.
The Canvey teenager had the 1,500m heats barely 14 hours after her 800m final — the only one from that final to try the middle-distance double.
“There was one other girl who was supposed to be doing it, but I got to the start and saw she wasn’t running and thought ‘oh great, I’m the only nutter doing both!’ Judd added. “But I’m so glad I did. I just love racing and being on the track. I haven’t raced as much this year. I have been really selective and I’m pleased because it has all worked out.”
In many ways her 1,500m final was just as, if not more, impressive than her medal in the 800m.
She ran 4m 9.93s, shaving four-and-a-half seconds off her previous best to finish fifth.
“It was so hard. I work really hard in training and I think that helped me,” the Chelmsford AC member said.
“I think I ran the last lap in 63s, but it was so, so hard. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘get to the finish line, get to the finish line’.
“I remember just sitting on the track afterwards and thinking I’ve given it my all, but I didn’t know the time. Then I looked across and saw the time of the winner and I thought ‘I wasn’t too far behind her’.
“Then I saw my time and I was so happy. To get two PBs in the championships just shows the form I was in.”
With Judd having such a busy schedule on the track, it meant she got little chance to see one of Europe’s most famous cities.
But to relieve some of the stress, the British team managers did let her have some time off on her one day off of the championships, the day before her 1,500m final.
On that day she went to lunch in the city with her family, coach and another Essex girl who had cause to celebrate on the Barcelona track: Sally Gunnell.
“It was really, really nice. There was my dad and sister and my coach and Jon Bigg, who is married to Sally and who had been giving me a lot of advice throughout the championships,” the King John School sixth former said.
“It was nice to be able to do that and talk to Sally. We did a bit of shopping and then went to the beach. It was really nice.
“I also go to go down to the beach with the other endurance girls after my 1,500m heat which was nice. “It was the first time I had been abroad to a hot country like that, so it was nice to be able to go down to the beach and the sea and do those sort of things.”
Given it was her first time running in warm conditions, was it something she stuggled to adapt to?
“It was hard,” she said. “When you get off the plane, the heat just hits you. But before I went out there I had been training with layers on and that was hard, I thought I was suffocating. So compared to that it wasn’t too bad!
“I think I managed the whole week really well. You live pretty much like a full time athlete while you are there. It’s training, eating, racing, sleeping, the same routine over and over.
“I thought of all the hard training I have done to get me to that point and it just made me realise how lucky I am to be involved in athletics.”
With her mid-season break now over, Judd will turn her attentions to lowering her personal bests further still and she has got two very big races coming up next month.
She will race in a junior 1,500m in Lausanne on the same bill as the Diamond League before making her debut in the sport’s most glamorous meeting a few days later in Birmingham when she will run the 800m.
“I have always dreamed of running in the Diamond League,” said Judd “I’ve always watched it on TV and said I want to be there and now it’s like, yes I’m in!”
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