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Ontario teenager who ran world's fastest indoor 400-metre nearly didn't compete

Canadian Christopher Morales Williams poses for a photo next to his result during the NCAA Southeastern Conference indoor championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Feb. 25, 2024. (Wesley Hitt/University of Georgia/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canadian Christopher Morales Williams poses for a photo next to his result during the NCAA Southeastern Conference indoor championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Feb. 25, 2024. (Wesley Hitt/University of Georgia/The Canadian Press - image credit)

An Ontario teenager who ran the all-time fastest race in the men's indoor 400 metres on the weekend says he nearly didn't compete in the event.

Christopher Morales Williams, 19, a native of Vaughan, told CBC Toronto in an interview on Monday that he wasn't feeling well. That morning, he said he thought he was nervous, he wasn't able to eat much breakfast and he took a long nap.

"I went to go eat lunch. I had barely any of it, and then I just started to throw up, when I was about to leave for the bus," Morales Williams, a University of Georgia sophomore, said.

"Immediately after that, everything started to go downhill. I felt so tired even though I had just taken a three-hour nap. I felt really weak. The whole warm-up, I couldn't even stand for pretty much most of it because I was out of breath. I really wasn't sure if I was going to be able to run that day. But I think that helped me because I wasn't really nervous so much about the race anymore," he added.

"I really wanted to run because I worked so hard to get here."

The race of his life

Morales Williams pushed through it, running the race of his life. He beat his previous personal best by nearly a second, clocking in 44.49 seconds at the NCAA's Southeastern Conference championships on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

He even outpaced the world record of 44.57, set by American Kerron Clement in 2005 on the same track.

Morales Williams' race, though the fastest time ever clocked in the event, could not be submitted to World Athletics for world-record consideration due to a technicality beyond his control.

"When I got to about 120 metres to go, I felt amazing, I just didn't feel that tired at all, so I just kept running, and then I realized, I really want to win this race."

Morales Williams said one of his biggest inspirations is fellow Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse. Both are products of Toronto's Speed Academy.

"I always looked up to him, especially when I saw him at the Pan Am games in 2015, because that was in Canada," he said. "I just always wanted to follow in his footsteps, because I started doing track and I was like, I just want to be like Andre."

Canadian Christopher Morales Williams of the University of Georgia raced to a world indoor record time of 44.49 seconds in the men's 400 metres on Saturday at the NCAA's Southeastern Conference championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
Canadian Christopher Morales Williams of the University of Georgia raced to a world indoor record time of 44.49 seconds in the men's 400 metres on Saturday at the NCAA's Southeastern Conference championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

Morales Williams of the University of Georgia raced to a world's-fastest time of 44.49 seconds in the men's indoor 400 metres. (Hirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports/File)

Hoping to inspire

Now Morales Williams said he hopes he can be an inspiration to young Canadian athletes as De Grasse was for him.

"Hopefully, a lot of people will look up to me and see the things that I've done. Hopefully, I inspire them to work harder."

Morales Williams chose Georgia largely because of coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, who trained De Grasse at the University of Southern California.

Karim Abdelwahab, a coach at the University of Georgia, told CBC Toronto that it's a spectacular time and a testament to Morales Williams' work ethic.

Shaving off nearly a second off his personal best is a big jump and a significant improvement, Abdelwahab added.

"He made it happen," he said. "It's a lot... He beat himself by 10 metres almost. He put it all together."

Morales Williams was part of Canada's world U20 bronze medal-winning 400 relay team in Cali, Colombia, in 2022 and clinched silver at the Pan American U20 Championships the following year.

He missed two years of high school track when schools were shut during the pandemic. He did daily solo long distance runs during that time for training, working up to 12 kilometres.