AW readers’ choice international U20 athletes of the year Tina Clayton and Erriyon Knighton have underlined their sprinting prowess in 2022 and are intent on following in illustrious footsteps
Cast your minds back to the 100m and 200m finals at the London 2012 Olympics. On the men’s side, Usain Bolt took the plaudits in both while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix reached the top of the women’s sprint podiums.
While all of that adrenaline-filled action was going on, in Clarendon, Jamaica and Tampa, Florida both Tina Clayton and Erriyon Knighton were youngsters still getting used to being at primary school, let alone thinking about careers in sport. However, both now share those same dreams and ambitions as the aforementioned greats of the track.
The duo, voted AW’s international junior athletes of the year, are 18 and have experienced rises in the sport as rapid as their speed over the ground.
Clayton is a double world under-20 100m and 4x100m champion while Knighton became the youngest ever individual sprint medallist in World Championships history when he landed 200m bronze in Eugene this summer.
They have torn records apart, too. When Clayton clocked a 100m personal best of 10.95 at the World Under-20 Championships, it also represented a Jamaican under-20 mark. She was also part of the Jamaican 4x100m team which set the world under-20 4x100m record of 42.94.
Knighton stole the headlines with a truly stunning season opener of 19.49 – a time that broke the under-20 world record and now places him fifth on the all-time list – but he backed it up with that major medal in Oregon and then a Diamond League win in Brussels.
The next generation has well and truly arrived.
Being Jamaican, Clayton understands her country’s history and association with sprinting. Such has been their dominance, she was just four days old the last time the Olympic women’s 100m title wasn’t claimed by either Fraser-Pryce or Elaine Thompson-Herah.
“I believe I will be very successful,” Clayton tells AW. “To know that Jamaica finished one, two, three in the 100m at the World Championships is a huge motivation, so when I grow up I can be a part of that as well. It drives me forward and gives me hunger when I train so I can achieve that kind of success.
“They have set big examples for the young generations. We look up to them and want to be like them. It takes a lot of determination,…