With athletes from Africa, North America and Europe often commanding the headlines at major championships, day two at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 was the turn for Asia Pacific to shine, with athletes from the region capturing five of the six gold medals on offer.
TANAKA’S 3000M HEROICS
Japanese distance runners and jumpers joined forces to produce one of the finest half-hour spans in the country’s athletics history, with Nozomi Tanaka and Yuki Hashioka taking victories in the women’s 3000m and men’s long jump, respectively.
Tanaka and teammate Yuna Wada set the tone in the 3000m as they took firm command of the race early on, forging on alone to carve out a massive lead, one they held through the bell, carrying a five-second advantage into the final lap over Ethiopian pair Meselu Berhe and Tsiga Gebreselama.
Never wavering, Tanaka then broke away as she hit the backstretch for the last time, powering away to Japan’s first title in the event at an IAAF World U20 Championships. In a race of astonishing quality, her 8:54.01 was a personal best, as were the performances by the next 12 women across the line.
Wada faded over the final half lap, caught and passed by the Ethiopian pair, Berhe reaching the line in 8:56.39 and Gebreselama in 8:59.20.
Meanwhile, in the long jump Hashioka captured Japan’s first-ever gold in that event with a third-round 8.03m leap, to narrowly defeat pre-meet favourite Maikel Vidal who reached 7.99m. The Cuban was the picture of consistency, backing up his best with leaps of 7.95m and 7.94m twice, but it wasn’t enough to top Hashioka’s effort, the fourth farthest of his career. Wayne Pinnock reached 7.90m with his first leap to secure bronze, the first medal in the event for Jamaica at a World U20 Championships.
ZOHRI MAKES HISTORY FOR INDONESIA
There was an even more significant first in the men’s 100m, courtesy of rising sprint star Lalu Muhammad Zohri whose triumph in the dash came in an Indonesian’s first ever appearance in a World U20 Championships final.
Indeed, prior to Zohri’s powerful 10.18 upset victory over Anthony Schwartz and Eric Harrison of the US, who both clocked 10.22, Indonesia was only represented twice: once with an eighth-place finish in a 100m heat and another with a DNF. Zohri’s national U20 record will no doubt open the door and pave the way for more.
AUSTRALIAN DECATHLON 1-2
The seeds for today’s success for that slice of the planet were planted yesterday with the start of the decathlon, which culminated today with Ashley Moloney leading an Australian 1-2 in the event with a championship record tally of 8190.
Producing the performance on a lifetime, the 18-year-old was the quintessential picture of youthful exuberance over the two days as he notched six personal bests and equalled another en route to the largest winning margin ever at these championships.
Teammate Gary Haasbroek took silver with 7798 with Simon Ehammer of Switzerland taking a surprise bronze.
WESCHE’S SHOT PUT SURPRISE
There were late-round dramatics in the women’s shot put, the first final of the day, where Madison-Lee Wesche emerged when it mattered most to take New Zealand’s first medal at these championships.
Dutchwoman Jorinde van Klinken set the tone, reaching 17.05m with her first effort, a mark that grew stronger as each round melded into the next. Until the fourth round, only Zhang Linru came within half a metre of Van Klinken, reaching 16.65m in round two. She then admirably lived up to her title as Asian junior champion, matching Van Klinken’s 17.05m and assuming the lead based on a better second effort.
Then, echoing yesterday’s men’s final, Wesche, sitting in bronze medal position, stepped into the ring for the final time and threw 17.09m, a personal best to better Zhang by four centimetres. She became the second New Zealander to win this title, following in the footsteps of 2002 winner Valerie Adams.
SHUKH’S FIRST GLOBAL GOLD… COMES IN THE JAVELIN
In the final field event of the day, Alina Shukh captured gold in the javelin, setting up what could be a historic double.
The 19-year-old Ukrainian, a strong favourite in the heptathlon which gets underway tomorrow, took command from the outset, taking the lead with a 53.42m effort in the opening round, and extended it to 54.53m in the second. She went better still in the third, sending her spear to a season’s best 55.95m, equalling the second best throw of her career.
In a tight contest, Japan’s Tomoka Kuwazoe reached 55.66m for silver and Dana Baker of the US 55.04m for bronze.
NICHOLSON FASTEST HURDLER OF THE DAY
No major surprises emerged in the men’s 110m hurdles semifinals, except for the name of the man who emerged from the three races as the fastest over the 99cm barriers.
That was Briton Jason Nicholson, who, after bouncing across the line to a 13.58 personal best in this morning’s first-round heats, produced the race of his life en route to a 13.32 victory in his semi, beating among others world leader and co-U20 world record holder Damion Thomas. Nicholson edged the Jamaican by 0.05, who’ll join teammate Orlando Bennett, winner of heat two in 13.45, in tomorrow evening’s final.
Cory Poole of the US won the first semi comfortably in 13.68 to keep his 110m/400m hurdles double victory ambitions alive.
But there was a shock in the women’s 800m semi-finals, perhaps the biggest of the rounds, where defending champion Samantha Watson of the US failed to qualify for tomorrow night’s final. The 18-year-old, who raced to world U18 gold in 2015 and the NCAA title in June, was never in the race here, finishing a distant fourth in 2:03.95, leading to a nervous wait to see if she’d squeeze through on time. She wouldn’t, finishing no better than equal 10th.
Fireweyni Hailu of Ethiopia was a confident winner in 2:01.96, followed across the line by Delia Sclabas, whose 2:02.12 was a Swiss U20 record. Kenyan Jackline Wambui was third in 2:03.44, also forced to wait it out before learning of her fate. In the end, she would advance.
The second heat was marginally faster, won by a second Ethiopian, Diribe Welteji, in 2:01.89. Propelled by a 2:03.20 lifetime best, Katy-Ann McDonald of Great Britain finished second to take the heat’s second automatic qualifying spot.
Carley Thomas of Australia and Gabriela Gajanova of Slovakia finished 1-2 in the third heat in 2:03.19 and 2:03.36 respectively, with Japan’s Ayaka Kawata, following a scant 0.01 behind, advancing as well.
Meanwhile, India’s Hima Das, another pre-race favourite, didn’t stray from the form card, leading all qualifiers with a 52.10 victory in the first of three semi-finals in the women’s 400m, on track on her quest to capture India’s first women’s medal at the World U20 Championships.
Australia’s Ella Connolly won the third heat in 52.78 and Taylor Manson of the US the second, in 53.00. Romania’s Andrea Miklos also looked good, clocking 52.48 as she finished behind Das.
MONDO’S BRIEF APPEARANCE
In the men’s pole vault, Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis, one of these championships’ poster boys, made his first appearance – more of a brief jaunt to top 5.30m on his only jump to lead all qualifiers. Nine others topped 5.20m to also move on to Saturday afternoon’s final.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
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