Duncan Mackay

The women's 200 metres final at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Junior Championships in Moncton ended one of the most talked-about streaks in current athletics.

Jodie Williams of Great Britain had won somewhere on the order of 150 races without a loss over the course of some six  years.

The numbers are a little vague, of course, because for Williams  six years of competition takes us back into the years of age-group
meets and nine-and-ten-year-olds where accurate record-keeping of the  kind expected by international statisticians is hard to come by.

Williams, who admitted after winning the 100m final that she was exhausted, avoided the fate of Jamaica's Dexter Lee, whose 100m fatigue led to him jumping the gun in the 200m qualifying heats and being disqualified. Instead, Williams got through the the final and found herself on a 200m homestretch in the utterly new situation of having someone in front of her.

There was no mistaking the anguish on Williams' face as she crossed the line second, nor her obvious disappointment at receiving a silver medal and standing to hear someone else's anthem. But Williams' real misfortune was not that she lost, but that she was forced to meet that first loss on the world stage, albeit a junior one.

There's a story about a time when Harvard considered eliminating  intercollegiate athletics, and a house resident, known as no friend to  athletics, approached an administrator in great distress about this issue.

"The athletes bring so much to the house," he said. "They're the only ones who know how to lose."

So Jodie Williams arrived in Moncton as a conquering heroine of  British track, under the eye of some of the most aggressive and opinionated journalists in the sport, and only then met one of the  fundamental lessons that sports teach us.

Had Williams been in Des Moines at the United States Track & Fields Nationals, she might have repeatedly seen on the big screen the Nike commercial which uses The Hours' 2006 song "Ali in the Jungle".

"Everybody gets knocked down," the chorus used in the ad goes. "How quick are you going to get up?"

Parker Morse is a regular columnist on athletics, including for the International Association of Athletics Federations. This article first appeared at  www.runblogrun.com.