Candace Hill at the IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015 (© Getty Images)
Rising teenage sprint star Candace Hill secured the sprint double at the IAAF World U18 Championships Cali 2015 before taking top spot in the 100m and 4x100m at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016. Here the 18-year-old sensation reflects on the significance of her maiden global success.
“Winning my first world (U18) title in the 100m in Cali was a very emotional moment for me. It was not only my first world title but it was also my first time out of the country and after running 10.98 (a world youth best) in the countdown to the championships, winning meant I had handled the pressure.
“Leading up the World U18 Championships, I was on a roll in terms of form. I won the Adidas Grand Prix and then in Seattle I ran 10.98 – a time which sent shockwaves around the world. Suddenly, everyone was interested in me and wanted interviews. I certainly felt the build-up of pressure which went with favouritism.
“Travelling to Colombia was my first overseas trip and I remember that feeling of excitement leaving the US. Colombia was quite different to what I was used to, but it was such a great experience. The whole USA team of athletes, coaches, trainers and medical staff were one big family and extremely supportive. Once I got to Cali, it felt like a lot of people came out for the World U18 Championships. The crowd were excited and I remember kids in the crowd wanting an autograph or their picture taken with me. It made me feel special. I felt a lot of love.
“I ran well in the heats and semi-final (Hill won the heat in 11.47 and semi-final in 11.16) and leading into the final I knew I had to keep it going. Before the final I took a moment to think that I had been winning all season and that I was capable of winning again. I tried to remember everything that had served me well all season; the start, the drive phase, the finish. I also remember during my time In Colombia I had learned some Spanish phrases including good luck, so when the girl who carries the basket of clothes said ‘good luck’ and I answered ‘gracias’, she had a big smile and wanted to take a picture with me.
“To be honest, I don’t have many memories of the race. I recall the start and crossing the finish line – that’s all I recall. As soon as I crossed the finish line in first (Hill ran 11.08), I immediately felt the pressure lift from my shoulders. I was so emotional and happy. I remember the tears came out in the post-race interview and I took time to compose myself.
“To win 100m gold in Cali meant so much to me. It was my goal to represent the USA, so winning gold will hopefully inspire other kids to achieve their goals. The gold medal was the immediate goal, but it also proved to me I had a future in the sport and I could perform to a whole new level. It gave me a confidence boost and inspired me for the 200m, where I set a world youth best (22.43).”
Steve Landells for the IAAF