Shericka Jackson: Top things you did not know about Jamaica's sprint star 

She’s the reigning Olympic 100m bronze medallist and the third-fastest female 200m runner in history. But how much do you really know about Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson? 

By Sean McAlister
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Shericka Jackson sprinted herself into the record books at last month’s Jamaican national championships by posting the third-fastest time ever in the women’s 200m.

In a spectacular warm-up to the World Athletics Championships, which take place in Oregon between 15 and 24 July, the 27-year-old not only did the 100m/200m double - beating athletics royalty Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the process - she also set a scintillating time of 21.55 over the longer distance.

It is a mark only ever beaten by the USA's world record-holder Florence Griffith-Joyner and two-time Olympic 200m champ Thompson-Herah.

But did you know that Jackson, a five-time Olympic medallist, doesn’t even consider herself to be a sprinter? Here are five things you did not know about the history-making athlete.

READ MORE: Shericka Jackson completes Jamaican nationals double

A self-proclaimed “very slow” runner as a child

For those who believe natural talent trumps everything else in life, Jackson has a lesson for you: she didn’t become an Olympic champion through the skill and speed she was born with.

In fact, in her younger years, she never even reached the podium in her school sports days.

“When I was at primary school I was very slow. I never won anything or came in the top three before. At sports day I was very, very slow,” she told Jamaican TV presenter Yendi Phillipps.

It took until the last year of secondary school for Jackson to truly set her mind on being a track athlete, inspired by her sick coach who had always encouraged her to run 400m.

“In my last year of high school I wanted to win the 400," she explained. "I ran 200 but I wanted to win the 400 because I think he [her coach] wanted that.

“So I paid close attention and started working hard. So that’s when I started realising that I’m good at 400, I need to focus on the four - despite hating the training.”

She thought about quitting after her first major championship

Jackson began to develop as an athlete and, after qualifying for her first major championships in 2014, headed to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

But prior to the Games, injury struck and Jackson couldn’t compete. She even began to consider her future in the sport.

“I was really disappointed because I’d trained so hard and I wanted to do so well and I never even got to touch the track," she remembered.

“I started to question why I worked so hard and still ended up empty-handed. And I was like, ‘I just don’t want to continue.’”

However, with the help of friends and family, Jackson got back to training and just a year later had won her first major championships medals - 400m bronze and 4x400m gold at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing.

Shericka Jackson 
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Jackson doesn’t actually like sprinting

As unlikely as it may seem for one of the best short-distance runners in the business, Jackson professes to actually not enjoying short-distance running very much at all.

“I don’t like sprinting,” she said. “I will sprint but I don’t like it. It’s so difficult, I tell people every day I give sprinters a lot of credit because whenever I sprint I feel so much pain.”

In fact, at the end of last year, the runner who has run sub 50 seconds in the 400, sub 22 in the 200m and sub 11 in the 100m, claimed that she doesn’t even consider herself a sprinter.

“If anyone asks me now, I’m like, ‘remember, I’m not a sprinter, you know,’” she said. “Next year, If I do carry on sprinting I’ll be like, ‘OK, I am a sprinter’, but for now I just like the term quarter-miler.”

And in an interview with Smile Jamaica TVJ, she confessed that her favourite event of the three she is renowned for is still the longer 400m distance.

“For me [with] the 400 you can pick up each 100 and I actually enjoy doing it. The 100 is so difficult… I love the highlight of the 100 and 200, but if I was supposed to choose I’d definitely choose the 400.”

Tokyo 2020 left her with unfinished goals

While many outsiders would look at her Tokyo 2020 campaign as a great success, Jackson was left utterly disappointed by her performance in the 200m, where she crashed out in the heats after slowing before the line to miss out on the final by four-thousandths of a second. The experience left her unable to deal with her feelings and emotions.

“I have not watched that video up to this day," she admitted. "It’s hard to watch, it’s difficult to accept. I never said I made a mistake, I don’t think it was a mistake. It’s just that if it was to be it would have been…

“I never wanted to eat, it was hard for me."

However, showing the sort of resilience that has become her trademark, she bounced back at the same Olympic Games, picking herself up from her lowest point to medal in the 4x400m relay.

“That was a great moment for me after the disappointment of the 200m,” she told World Athletics. “Well, I wouldn’t call it a disappointment – it was a lesson I have to learn.”

Now less than a year later, she has put herself in the position of favourite for 200m gold at the World Athletics Championships, having registered the third-fastest time in history and proven herself as one of the greatest sprinters on the planet.

And with the harsh lesson of the Olympic 200m competition well and truly internalised, she has the chance to make good upon her immense promise at this month's Worlds in Oregon.

A strong advocate for athlete mental health

One of the things that comes naturally to Jackson is talking about mental well-being.

“I am not scared to say I go for help when I want help, because I think that should be on top of everybody’s list,” she explained. “If you want the help, go get the help.”

After every one of her athletic setbacks, the runner has turned to therapy and counselling to help her through. And she continues to work on her own mental health even during times of success.

Destigmatising any notions of embarrassment around seeking support, Jackson is an open advocate of the benefits of therapy and has even attributed it to her success as an athlete.

“I ensure that I go to counselling, I get some therapy,” she said. “I don’t put pressure on myself. I work with my coach, I work with my physiotherapist, I work with everyone around me to keep my mental state right where it needs to be.”


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