Previews30 Jul 2022


WU20 Cali 22 preview: hurdles and steeplechase

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Sembo Almayew competes in the 3000m steeplechase heats at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)

More than 1500 athletes from 145 teams are set to compete at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 between 1-6 August.

Here we take a look at the women's and men's hurdles and steeplechase events at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium.

Women’s 100m hurdles

She may be the second youngest in the field, but there’s every chance that when the women’s 100m hurdles reaches its climax, Jamaica’s Kerrica Hill will be first across the line. The 17-year-old was an ultra-impressive winner of the Jamaican U20 title in 12.98 (1.5m/s) last month and, with 11.16 100m flat speed in her armoury, she will be tough to stop if getting things right technically. She will be backed up by teammate Alexis James, who clocked a PB of 13.13 last month to make the team for Cali.

The US challenge will be led by Jalaysiya Smith, who ran her PB of 13.05 (0.5m/s) in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships and who went on to win the US U20 title last month in 13.21. She will be joined by teammate Eddiyah Frye, who clocked 13.26 to finish second to Smith and make the team for Cali last month. Germany’s Hawa Jalloh has also been in sparkling form of late, clocking a PB of 13.23 to win her national U20 title last earlier this month and she should also feature.

With next year’s World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 starting to loom on the horizon, Hungary could well have a teenage hurdler competing on home turf there, given the progress of Anna Toth, who clocked a national U20 record of 13.23 (0.5m/s) last month and will take her shot at the world’s best teenagers in Cali. The British charge will be led by Marli Jessop, who has a best of 13.38 this year. Others to have gone below 13.50 this season are Spain’s Paula Blanquer, Britain’s Mia McIntosh, Germany’s Naomi Krebs and Czech Republic’s Ester Bendova.

Men’s 110m hurdles

Dutch teenager Matthew Sophia walked away from last year’s European U20 Championships with two silver medals – in the 110m hurdles and 4x100m relay – but the 18-year-old looks to have a great chance of going one better in Cali if he shows up in the same form he showed earlier this year. The Rotterdam Atletiek athlete tops the world U20 lists via his Dutch U20 record of 13.23 (-0.4m/s) in March, though he has raced little since winning the Carifta Games title in Jamaica in mid-April in 13.74.

The US challenge will be led by national U20 champion Malik Mixon, who won that title with a wind-assisted time of 13.26 (2.6m/s) last month. He will be joined in Cali by teammate TJ Caldwell, who clocked 13.34 at the US U20 Championships and who has run a wind-legal best of 13.40 this year. Czech Republic’s Stepan Schubert should also be a big threat, having clocked 13.40 to win his national U20 title last month. Jamaica’s Dishaun Lamb, South Africa’s Denmar Jacobs and Bahamas’ Antoine Andrews have all run well below 13.50 this year and should all be in the hunt for a spot in the final.

Women’s 400m hurdles

Italy’s Alessia Seramondi is the quickest athlete among the 48 entries in the women’s 400m hurdles, lowering her PB to 57.29 when winning her national U20 title in 57.29 in Rieti. US U20 champion Akala Garrett is another sure to be in the hunt for medals. She clocked a world U18 lead of 57.46 when winning the US high school title in Eugene last month. She will be backed up by teammate Michaela Rose, the LSU student who juggles the 400m hurdles, where she has a best of 57.62, with the 800m, where she has a best of 2:02.49.

Japan has a strong contender in Moe Matsuoka, the 19-year-old who finished third at her national senior championships last month in 57.57.  Jamaica’s Oneika McAnnuff has run 57.68 this season and could also be in the medal shake-up, along with Czech Republic’s Ester Bendova (57.90) and Italy’s Ludovica Cavo (57.94). The Polish duo of Wiktoria Oko and Aleksandra Wolczak should also go close – both have run 58.03 this year.

Men’s 400m hurdles

Turkey’s Berke Akcam took gold in this event at the last edition of the World U20 Championships in Nairobi, and his nation has a strong change of retaining that title this year through Ismail Nezir, who lowered his PB to 49.59 last month at the Mediterranean Games. Just one athlete in the field has gone quicker than that – Roshawn Clarke of Jamaica, who set his PB of 49.39 when winning his national U20 title in Kingston last month, while his teammate Antonio Forbes shouldn’t be far away given he has run 50.48 this year.

Slovenia’s Matic Ian Gucek finished fifth in last year’s world U20 final and the 18-year-old will be looking to get on the podium here, which he looks capable of doing after his national U20 record of 49.72 to win the Slovenian senior title last month.

Yeral Nunez of Dominican Republic is another who has been in fine form, setting a national U20 record of 50.07 last month. The Asian challenge is led by Japan’s Daiki Ogawa, who has run 50.50 this year, and he will be backed up by compatriot Sojiro Moritaka, who has run 50.71. Qatar’s Ismail Doudai Abakar is another worthy of respect – a 50.62 athlete this season.

Women’s 3000m steeplechase

Ethiopia’s rise in the steeplechase has been moving at a swift pace in recent years and they have a strong contender for the world U20 champion in Sembo Almayew. The 17-year-old has been in sparkling form this season, finishing second at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Paris in 9:09.19 last month before finishing fifth in her heat at the World Championships in Oregon. She will be joined in Cali by Meseret Yeshaneh, who has a best of 9:33.34.

Kenya, unsurprisingly, will likely provide the stiffest opposition in the event they historically ruled like no other. Their challenge will be led by Faith Cherotich, the 18-year-old who won bronze at the last edition of these championships in Nairobi and who clocked a noteworthy 9:12.04 at altitude in the Kenyan capital back in May. She will be joined in Cali by teammate Pamela Kosgei, who has run 9:54.20 this year.

The European challenge will be led by Spain’s Marta Serrano, who was sixth in the last world U20 final in Nairobi and who lowered her PB to 9:48.64 last month.

Morocco’s Khadija Ennasri has run 10:00.49 this year, while Tunisia’s Rihab Dhahri has run 10:03.15. Peru’s Veronica Huacasi, Hungary’s Greta Varga and Germany’s Carolin Hinrichs have all run below 10:15 and will be a targeting a place in the final at the very least.  

Men’s 3000m steeplechase

Morocco has the current world and Olympic champion in the men’s steeplechase in Soufiane El Bakkali, and in Salaheddine Ben Yazide the nation has an athlete who could one day follow in his footsteps. The 19-year-old tops the world U20 lists with the 8:19.63 he ran at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rabat back in June and Yazide gained some top-level experience at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 earlier this month, finishing 13th in the heats. Ethiopia’s Samuel Firewu is just behind him on the world U20 lists via the 8:19.82 he ran in Ostrava back in May and he backed that up with a fifth-place finish at the African Championships last month. He will be joined by compatriot Samuel Duguna, who has a best of 8:27.40 this season.

Kenya has long proven tough to stop in the hunt for steeplechase medals and their challenge will be led in Cali by Emmanuel Wafula, who has run 8:42.25 this season, and Haron Kibet, who has run 8:43.82.

Uganda has a pair of strong entrants in Elphas Toroitich Ndiwa and Leonard Chemutai, who have run 8:37.3 and 8:40.6 respectively this year, while the US challenge is led by Bryce Lentz who has run 8:39.73. Others to look out for include Japanese duo Ryotaro Onuma and Asahi Kuroda, along with Algeria’s Abderrahmane Daoud – all three have all dipped below 8:50 this year. 

Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics