Sharika Nelvis in the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Getty Images)
North American 60m hurdles record-holder Sharika Nelvis says travel is the low point of her life as an athlete. The high point of her career, meanwhile, was a coaching switch.
It is not a low moment as such, but for me the worst part of the sport is traveling alone on the longer flights.
I don’t usually travel in first-class and I often struggle to sleep for more than one or two hours on a flight. I don’t know why I can’t sleep, I guess it is the position (I’m sat in in the airplane seat), which is not comfortable for me.
What do I like least about travelling? I get bored; I guess I don’t like sitting down for too long. If I had someone to travel with, that would make the trip better because I would have someone to talk to, make a joke with and have a laugh with. I’m often doing exercises such as high knees on the flight, just to keep my legs moving.
My first time travelling out of the US came in 2015 and it took me a full three weeks to recover. Over time, my body has adjusted (to the travel) and I put things in place, like wearing compression socks and tights to make it easier. This does make my legs feel better and I find a quick shake out gets the blood flowing.
Sometimes I arrive at a meet and try to stay on US time, although this is not always easy. I could try to sleep during the day but you often have room-mates who are, of course, up and about during the day and who would want the light on in the room.
The high moment for me came when I switched coaches in the middle of 2016 to join Darryl Woodson.
I’d enjoyed my best season up until that point in my career in 2015 (where she ran a lifetime best of 12.34 and reached the IAAF World Championship 100m hurdles final), but I changed coaches and the adjustments I made did not work out.
I needed to find a new coach, so I approached Darryl to see if he would coach me for the remainder of the season. I was living in Texas, as was Darryl, so I wouldn’t have to move, which felt like an easy transition. At first he said he could coach me a couple of times a week, but I said, ‘that’s not going to work’. He finally agreed to take me on full time.
Shortly after I started to be coached by him, I won my first race in Jamaica (in Kingston with 12.61). He knew I needed to be in certain shape to run hurdles and after winning that race, I thought ‘we can work together’.
Even though I missed the Olympic team (Nelvis was fifth at the US Olympic Trials, only 0.05 from third) I enjoyed a consistent season in 2016 and in 2017 my indoor performances were the best in my career.
Darryl is a very good communicator. He listens and we have a great working relationship. He knows what works and I trust him 100 per cent – which is the type of coach I need. I’ve never seen him get mad. He says, ‘if I have to have make you do it, it means you don’t want to do the training’.
The best piece of advice he has given me is: ‘you know how to hurdle, just run’. This is true because hurdling is something I’ve been doing for a long time.
I want to be around people who bring the best out in me, and Darryl does that.
Steve Landells for the IAAF