Barbadian track superstar and 400 metres world bronze medallist Sada Williams will be the first of three Bajans out the blocks on Sunday at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Williams, the country’s best medal prospect, starts her campaign at 3:51 a.m. Barbados time in lane nine of the third of six heats.
Fellow quarter-milers Jonathan Jones and DeSean Boyce will line up in the heats of the men’s 400 metres at 4:41 a.m. and 4:57 a.m. respectively.
Sprint hurdler Shane Brathwaite was on the team, but later withdrew for undisclosed reasons, as confirmed by Trevor Welch, secretary of the Athletics Association of Barbados (AAB).
Last year, Williams bagged the World Championships bronze medal in Eugene, Oregon in a national record 49.75 seconds, behind defending champion Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo (49.11), and silver medallist Marileidy Paulino (49.60) of Dominican Republic.
To Williams’ immediate left will be defending champion and new mother Miller-Uibo who will open her season after welcoming her first child just five months ago on April 20, a son named Maicel Uibo Jr., with husband Maicel Uibo.
Jones runs in heat three from lane seven, while Boyce has lane eight in heat five of the six heats.
Last year, Jones made it all the way to the final, finishing eighth in 46.13 seconds.
The 24-year-old Jones has been fighting injury in a modest season under his belt with a season’s best of 45.70 seconds.
Boyce, a first-timer on the world stage, recorded a personal and season’s best 44.85 seconds.
Williams’ season’s best of 50.00 seconds flat is the fastest in the heat, and she will be expected to easily progress to Monday’s semi-final at 3:12 p.m.
The first three finishers plus the next six fastest times will advance to the semis.
All three athletes attended Coleridge and Parry School where they were initially developed by Ramon Armstrong, Barbados’ head coach for this meet, who said it is good to see them at this level.
“The atmosphere is good, facilities are nice. The best athletes in the world are gathered here so it’s expected to be a spectacular competition. The race is run on the day, all three are ready to go and give of their best. Right now, everyone is healthy and in great spirits,” said Armstrong.
World-leader Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (48.74 seconds) and Salwa Eid Naser (49.78) have both withdrawn from the prestigious meet, enhancing Williams’ medal hopes.
Gold-medal favourite Paulino of the Dominican Republic runs in heat six with a personal and season’s best 48.98 seconds. She will be accompanied by American Talitha Diggs, Jamaican Charokee Young, and Victoria Ohuruogu of Great Britain.
Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek (49.48), who has been in top form this season, is placed in heat one with Jamaican Candice McLeod.
Heat two includes Lieke Klaver (49.81) of Netherlands, who will run side by side with American Lynna Irby-Jackson.
Britton Wilson of the United States steps up in heat four with a personal and season’s best 49.13 seconds. Jamaican Nickisha Pryce will join her.
Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke lines up in heat five with Guyanese Aliyah Abrams. (RW)