Helene Swanepoel in the girls' 400m Hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships 2013 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Donetsk, Ukraine

Swanepoel lives up to expectations in 400m hurdles

Sixteen-year-old Helene Swanepoel improved her own world youth-leading performance to 58.08 in the 400m Hurdles to become South Africa’s first World youth champion in a girls' sprint event.

Fast-finishing Tia-Adana Belle of Barbados grabbed silver in a PB 58.42 ahead of early leader Lisa-Marie Jacoby of Germany in 58.75.

Running in lane three with her main rivals ahead of her, Jacoby set out extremely fast from the gun and was well clear of the rest of the field as she approached the final bend. Running one lane to her outside, Swanepoel didn’t lose her composure and bode her time to perfection as she made her move halfway through the bend.

Swanepoel was clearly making up ground in between barriers but, struggling with her hurdling technique, she needed more than her basic speed to overtake Jacoby. Finally she hit her steps right at the eighth barrier and made a decisive break to the finish.

It wasn’t until the last 80 metres that Belle came into the picture for a medal and having ran a more balanced race she moved strongly past Jacoby who only just held on for bronze ahead of team-mate Eileen Demes. She too clocked a PB 58.92.

Swanepoel is the first African to win the World youth 400m Hurdles title and joins the likes of Jana Pittman of Australia and Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic on the list of winners.