Stratford Stories: Kendra Harrison
In the build-up to this year’s hugely-anticipated Muller Anniversary Games we’re taking a look back at a series of individuals who’ve forged star reputations at London Stadium in recent years.
Taking place during the height of summer in 2019, the July meeting will see many of the world’s best go head-to-head across two scintillating days of action.
First up in the series we have American sprinter Kendra Harrison, who seems to thrive on the feverish atmosphere at London Stadium.
Destined for greatness
Back in 2016, Harrison had only been professional for a year but had already shown signs of star potential.
She announced herself by placing a close second to 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson in the 100m hurdles at the US Championships in 2015.
That performance got Harrison to the 2015 World Championships in Beijing but a false start in the semis saw her disqualified.
The Tennessee-born hurdler started her 2016 season on fire, delivering a near-perfect run at her first IAAF Diamond League event in Eugene, Oregon, in a time of 12.24 seconds – the second fastest time in history.
Despite that incredible performance she only placed sixth at the US Olympic trials so didn’t make it to Rio, but Harrison’s luck was about to change.
Arriving at London Stadium for the first time in July 2016 and no doubt with those Olympic trials in mind, Harrison took to the track in determined mood.
Starting strongly, she found herself nearly a hurdle ahead of the rest of the field at the 60m point and crossed the line in an unofficial time of 12.58 after dipping so low underneath the trackside beam.
This was corrected a few moments later to 12.20 and a sense of disappointment turned to disbelief as the London Stadium erupted.
Harrison had broken one of the sport’s longest-standing records and became the new world record holder, surpassing Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova’s 12.21 record, set in 1988.
After the stunning win, she commented: “To hear people call me a world record holder, it sounds remarkable. I wanted to come out here and show the world that I still have it even though I won't be going to the Olympics. I had to give it all I had.
“Initially I saw 12.5 and I was just happy to come out here and win. I was so happy when it came up and I was feeling really blessed. It shows that even if you don't go out there and make the team, you have to keep going and be strong. I just ran my best and look what happened.”
A star is born
For Harrison there is a before London Stadium and an after, with that dazzling world record spurring her on to further international success.
In 2017 she returned to London for the World Championships, finishing fourth in the 100m hurdles and then in 2018 took her first global crown with the 60m hurdles title at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
The 26-year-old has continued to dominate at the Muller Anniversary Games ever since, taking gold with a time of 12.39 in July 2017 and then making it a hat-trick of titles with a 12.36 the following year.
Incredibly, Harrison has now won all 12 Diamond League 100m hurdles she’s entered and is currently ranked second in the world - so don’t bet against further London success in 2019.