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Relaxed Williams ready for Osaka

23 August 2007
Watch the world champs live daily webcast on WCSN.com

By Dave Ungrady

Far from the maddening moments that have muddled her state of mind this outdoor season, Lauryn Williams began her long trip to Osaka, Japan, and the 2007 IAAF World Outdoor Championships with the glee of an excited teenage girl.

When reached by phone on Aug. 14 as she waited to board a plan in Detroit, Mich., airport bound for Japan, Williams sounded outright giddy as she recognized some of her U.S. teammates also traveling on the same flight to the world championships.

"Hey, there's Tyson [Gay]," she said. "And Eric Wilson, our triple jumper. There's Lashawn [Merritt, 400 meters] and James Carter [400-meter hurdles] and Bershawn Jackson [400 meters]. And there are so many new people. In general, you see the same faces over and over make these trips. From 2000, it's mostly been the same athletes on the teams. This year, there are at least five people who I can't name."

Williams' excitement about traveling across the globe to compete in the world championships during a perplexing time is a testament to her positive approach to life. Williams is enduring a season that has yielded some of her poorest performances as a professional, but the defending world champion in the 100 meters hopes a rejuvenating run in Osaka will salvage her 2007 campaign.

"There was a certain amount of self doubt that was causing me to think more negatively than I have in my life," said the 23-year-old who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in the 100 meters. "I have to get it out of my head."

"It" is a string of lackluster performances this season, including a last-place finish at a meet in Lausanne, Switzerland. In her WCSN.com blog, Williams writes that it's the only time she remembers finishing last in a race.

Williams owns a personal best 10.88 in the 100 meters, but has recorded a 2007 season's best of 11.11 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City in June 2. The time ranks her 38th in the world this year.

A hamstring injury slowed Williams throughout the 2006 season. She posted a top time of 11.13 that year and was ranked seventh in the United States. Williams admits the injury still nags her slightly, but she's tired of blaming it for her recent sub-par performances.

"The main thing for me this year was using the injury as an excuse," she said. "I plan to go to Osaka and say, 'what have I got to lose?' I haven't run anything I consider to be a good time. I'm coming out to win, lose or draw. I'm ready to go out there and let it all hang out."

Williams still feels tightness and occasional shooting pain from her buttocks to her toes. MRIs and x-rays showed no structural damage, but she says the sciatic nerve near her hip is causing the discomfort.

"I was thinking about it too much," she said. "My legs may never feel 100% again. I just have to accept it and move forward."

Amy Deem, Williams' head coach as well as the coach of the U.S. women's team at the world championships, says Williams has been training well but needs to show more discipline in her races.

"If you look at her races, she's doing something different each time," said Deem Thursday in Osaka. "And that's never been her. Each race has been a little different. Maybe she sets the race up and her acceleration is good. Lauryn just needs to compete right now. I think she's over thinking it. She's trying to beat people to 10 meters instead of running her race. I think she needs to go back and do what she's best at. She's a very tough competitor. If she can keep that focus and let me be the coach and she be the athlete, she'll run very well again."

During her recent two-week break at home in Miami, Fla., Williams says she relaxed a lot and received countless pep talks from family and friends.

"A lot of people in my corner are counting on me to win," said Williams. "My next door neighbor came up to me and said, 'come over here, things are not going well, we've got to talk.' He said 'the main thing is to leave the mess at home. Don't worry about anything in your personal life. There are certain things everybody worries about -- money, love, relationships. You go on the track and don't worry about any of that.' "

Williams knows she'll have to improve her season's best effort to earn a top-three finish in the 100 meters. "There are four rounds to get ready," she said. "I want to work down to a sub-11 seconds by the finals. I don't see why I'm not capable of running a sub-11. I'm concentrating on the great two weeks I had at home. It's just a mental thing -- believing I can do it."

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