Monday 13 July, 2020

De'Jour Russell and Antonio Watson strike gold in Kenya

De'Jour Russell of Jamaica.

De'Jour Russell of Jamaica.

Sprint hurdler De'Jour Russell and quarter-miler Antonio Watson secured gold medals for Jamaica on Friday's third day of the 10th and final IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

The 17-year-old Russell powered away from his rivals in the boys' 110m hurdles to take gold in 13.04, a championship record.

His chief rival for gold, Hao-Hua Lu of Chinese Taipei, reacted quickly out of the blocks (0.156), giving him what amounted to a head-start over Russell, whose reaction time was just 0.227. In truth, though, it mattered little. As soon as Russell found his rhythm over the opening few barriers, which he dwarfed with his lengthy frame – his stride so long he appeared to stutter between hurdles – the Jamaican made it look like a case of man versus boys.

Russell had run a championship record of 13.08 to win his heat, and he again surpassed that, crossing the line in 13.04 and not looking overly troubled by the effort, though perhaps if there was any trace of disappointment, it was in coming up short of compatriot Jaheel Hyde’s world U18 best of 12.96.

“It’s been a great championship for me,” he said. “I have learnt that every step you make, make it count. I listened to my coach’s instructions, which helped me a lot. I really wanted to win gold for my country and I’m happy to have set a championship record.”

Further back, Lu came through in 13.41 to take the silver medal, and was suitably delighted with his runner-up position behind the unbeatable Russell. “It’s special because I ran next to my idol, Russell. My target is to eventually be in the Olympics.”

France’s Thomas Wanaverbecq took third in 13.55. “I had a solid start and Russell and Lu were very strong,” he said. “It is a fantastic moment for me.”

Earlier, Watson secured the first gold medal for Jamaica, winning the boys' 400m.

The race looked very open until the final 10 metres, when Watson burst to the front. In the end, however, his win was fairly clear, as he finished in 46.59, with Daniel Williams of Guyana second with 46.72 and Colby Jennings of Turks and Caicos third with 46.77.

The top three finishers all set personal bests, while the second Jamaican, Anthony Cox, who looked like a medallist until the final few metres, had the unfortunate experience of finishing fourth with the same time as the bronze medallist.

The two gold medals on the third-day of the five-day championships improved Jamaica's tally to four.

The other two medals were won by Kevona Davis and Tyreke Wilson.

Davis, the world U18 leader this year who set the fastest time in the penultimate round (11.45), had to settle for the bronze medal in the 100m in 11.67 on Thursday.  She left the track on the stretcher after seemingly sustaining an injury in the final few strides of the race.

And Wilson,  who was the gold medal favourite in the boys' 100m final, also had to settle for bronze 

Three other Jamaicans also competed in medal rounds on Friday.

In the girls' 400m final, Jamaican Shaquena Foote, the fastest-ranked athlete before the championships, could only manage fifth in 54.04.

Fifteen-year-old  Czech athlete Barbora Malikova defied her age and relative inexperience to run not just the smartest, but by far the strongest race in the to take gold in 52.74, taking more than a second off her personal best in the process.

In the boys' triple jump final, Jamaican Owayne Owens achieved a personal best jump 15.55m but it was only good enough for fifth place. He achieved the 15.55m on his fifth attempts.

The gold medal went to Cuban Jordan A. Diaz, who registered a World Under-18 best 17.30m.

In the girls' high jump final, Janique Burgher of Jamaica cleared 1.75m for eighth place.

Despite being one of the youngest in the field, 15-year-old Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh dominated the field to equal the championship record of 1.92m and winning by the largest margin in World U18 Championships history.

Meanwhile, Jamaica suffered a major disappointment in the morning session as fast-rising star Kevona Davis pulled out of the 200 metres.

The 15-year-old, the only Under-18 athlete to have run under 23 seconds this season, was scheduled to compete in Heat 1 during the morning session but did not report for the start.

The withdraw of the young star came a day after she was unable to produce anything like her best form in the 100m final and finished the race clutching her hamstring.

Davis crossed the finish line in 11.67, a time only good enough for bronze medal as Turkey’s Mizgin Ay produced a massive upset to win the gold medal.

Ay  crossed the line in 11.62 and was handed the verdict over Poland’s Magdalena Stefanowicz, who clocked the same time in second, which was a PB.  

Lorraine Martins of Brazil made a statement after missing out on a 100m medal the night before, clocking the fastest time of 23.90.

The gold and silver medallists in the short sprint – Ay (24.22) and Stefanowicz (24.33) –  also booked their places in Saturday's semifinals.

The Jamaican, who is the world leader in the 100m and 200m, was the big favourite to win the girls' sprint double.

In the men's 200 metres, Jamaican Xavier Naire secured his spot in the semi-finals on Saturday following a second place finish in the fourth and final heat.

Naire clocked 21.59 seconds to finish well behind France's Paul Tritenne, who won in a personal best 21.08 seconds.

The Jamaican will enter the semi-finals with the ninth fastest qualifying time.

A total of 14 sprinters set personal bests in the opening round, led by  Tritenne.

After grabbing gold and silver in the 100m final on Wednesday, the South African duo of Tshenolo Lemao (21.27) and Retshidisitswe Mlenga (21.31) also made it through without any problems.

Earlier, Jamaican Lotavia Brown failed to progress out of the qualifying round of the girls' triple jump. Brown had a best effort of 12.45m which was only good enough for seventh place in Group B of the qualifiers.

Tan Qiujiao of China added 41 centimetres to her personal best, producing a 13.16m leap as she led the way into Saturday's final.

The other four athletes to have jumped beyond 13 metres this year – Cuba's Zulia Hernandez (12.92m), Slovenia's Eva Pepelnak (12.73m), Romania's Diana Ion (12.55m) and China's Youqi Pan (12.50m) – all progressed safely through to the medal contest.

In the boys' discus throw, Jamaican Daniel Cope also failed to get out of the qualifying round after placing ninth of 10 in Group A with an effort of 49.61 metres, the only mark registered from his three attempts.

Title favourite Claudio Romero was second best in the qualifiers, launching a 59.08m heave as one of two athletes to achieve the automatic standard of 59.00m. The other was Oleksiy Kyrylin of Ukraine who produced the best attempt of the opening round with a 60.30m effort. The final will be contested on Saturday.

Jamaica has won a total of 50 medals, 19 of them gold, across the previous nine editions of the championships, putting them at fifth on the all-time medals table.

Six countries, including defending champions United States, have pulled out of the championships citing security concerns. The other countries which have pulled out are Canada, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and Great Britain.

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