Briana Williams: All you need to know about Jamaica’s next sprint hope

The teenager has broken records and won world titles already. Can she be as great as Usain Bolt?

By Edward Knowles

The look on her face said it all.

When Jamaica’s Briana Williams crossed the line in the 100m final at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, she was visibly shocked. 

Then aged 16, she was the youngest competitor in the 100m field.

It wasn’t the end of joy. She went on to win the 200m as well.

“I was thrilled. That is one word that I can say. I was really happy and proud myself,” she said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“I just started crying, as you can see from the pictures, because that has never happened to me before.”

The teenager wants this to be the first stop on her rise to the top.

“I want to be as great as (Usain) Bolt and be the greatest female athlete…

“I don’t know if I can ever touch FloJo’s record. But hopefully run near those times.”

The Olympic Channel met Williams and her coach, four-time Olympic medallist Ato Boldon, to talk plans and aspirations ahead of the 2019 outdoor season.


The 2018 season was Briana’s breakout year.

The performance led to increasing attention, two respected award nominations and the all-important blue tick of verification on Instagram.

“We worked very hard on getting her that,” said Boldon.

“I thought that it was an appropriate reward. For her generation, that may as well be a diplomatic passport.”

I want to be as great as Bolt - Briana Williams

Boldon has experience of the bright lights – both its charms and pitfalls.

In total, he took four Olympic medals, including a memorable silver at Sydney 2000 in the 100m.

The 45-year-old knows the pressure that comes along with young talent.

“Jamaica have already anointed her… She will be the ‘next one’…

“She is from the country who have produced the last two champions in the 100m in the Olympics.”

Briana seemed totally unruffled as Ato sings her praises in her presence.

“I always tell her – pressure is a good thing. Nobody did anything amazing without some pressure immediately before it.”


Jamaican sprint royalty congratulated Briana after her double win in Finland.

Elaine Thompson, (Usain) Bolt and Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce) all commented on my (Instagram) picture,” Williams said.

“I am one of the athletes who hasn’t met Usain Bolt yet. But I was really happy when that happened because they know who I am.”

So far, her Jamaican teammates have been welcoming and made her feel at home.

With her hopes to reach the sprint finals at the IAAF World Championships in Doha in October, that could change.

“I have to make sure that she is not so enamoured with the attention from her idols,” warned her coach Boldon.


Briana was born in Florida, USA, but her mother is Jamaican.

She chose to represent the country because of its reverence for track and field.

“They are always screaming on the streets and cheering us on. I like the culture more,” she said.

A scroll through her Instagram feed reveals her love for the island.

So, what would be a perfect day for her in the Caribbean?

“We are going to Blue Hole which is in Ocho Rios. It’s one of those mysterious places. There’s some music and some parties. We are going to eat the best food like jerk chicken or pan chicken.

“(We will) go to the beaches and stay from like 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock at night. That’s exactly what I will do over the summer when track is finished.”


The mission before the parties in Jamaica though is making the team for the world championships.

To earn her place, she will have to beat some recognisable names at the Jamaican trials which are scheduled for June.

Boldon is hopeful of a successful 2019 season but knows that Briana’s peak will probably come later.

Coached by Ato Boldon: Briana Williams of Jamaica wins gold in the women's 100m at the IAAF World U20 Championships

“It’s my job to prepare her. If Elaine (Thompson) is trying to win three (Olympic titles) in a row by Paris 2024, that is the same way she knocked off Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce) as Olympic champion – maybe that is Briana’s time.”

“(I think) 2024 and 2028 in Los Angeles – they are going to be more of her prime Olympics (that Tokyo 2020).

Boldon smiles.

“Not that we would rule out anything happening next year.”

Briana Williams and Ato Boldon were this week’s guest on the Olympic Channel Podcast. Each week we find the biggest athletes and speakers athletes to talk about the Olympics.

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