Jaydon Hibbert celebrates his triple jump win at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 (© Marta Gorczynska)
One jump was all it took. Breaking the championship record in the first round of the final, Jamaica’s Jaydon Hibbert claimed the triple jump crown in superb style on the penultimate day of the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 on Friday (5).
The 17-year-old secured silver at the last edition of the World U20 Championships in Nairobi last year and was favourite to go one better in Cali. But the manner in which he did that left him stunned. After landing in the sand, he leapt straight back up and glanced at the pit, grabbing his head in shock as he saw how far he had travelled. Collapsing to the track, still with his head in his hands, he waited for the measurement. When it showed – a 17.27m championship record – he was overcome with emotion.
Understandably so. The mark – a PB by 61cm – puts him second on the world U18 all-time list and makes him the equal eighth best U20 athlete in the history of the event. Only one other Jamaican – Olympic and world long jump silver medallist James Beckford – has ever gone farther with his 17.92m national record set in 1995.
The competition for gold was all but over. Returning to the runway, Hibbert backed up that 17.27m (0.0m/s) leap with 16.82m (-0.2m/s) in the second round, and then decided to call it a day knowing that he must surely have done enough.
He won by more than a metre. With the gold decided, there was a close battle for silver - Hibbert’s fellow 17-year-old Selva P. Thirumaran of India clinching it with a 16.15m PB, two centimetres ahead of Estonia’s Viktor Morozov, the 18-year-old who also claimed European U20 bronze last year.
New Zealand’s Ethan Olivier finished fourth with 16.03m and again just two centimetres separated him from the next best, USA’s Floyd Whitaker finishing fifth with a 16.01m PB.
“Right now, I can't even soak it up. I didn't see this coming, I'm speechless,” said Hibbert, who will still be young enough to compete at the 2024 World U20 Championships in Lima, Peru. “This was a big surprise because I actually came to the competition with a knee pain and I didn't even have a proper run up today. So, wow.”
Prior to Cali, Jamaica had never claimed gold in a jumps event at the World U20 Championships. Now the nation has two, Brandon Pottinger dealing best with the challenging conditions to win the high jump. The 18-year-old hadn’t been among the favourites going into the championships, but that meant nothing come competition day, when the weather added another dimension to the contest.
Entering at 2.05m, the Jamaican U20 champion needed two attempts to make it over that opening height, but then soared clear at 2.10m on the first time of asking. The competition was paused at that point, as a storm passed over the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium. Six athletes remained in contention – Pottinger joined by South African favourite Brian Raats, Bulgarian U20 champion Bozhidar Saraboyukov, Martin Lefevre of France, Yeh Po-Ting of Chinese Taipei and Hungary’s Matyas Guth.
The next height proved a challenge for all but Pottinger. As athletes returned to the field of play with the bar at 2.14m, one by one they knocked it down. But as he did for his opening height, the Jamaican soared over it on his second try and that would prove to be the winning clearance.
With both Raats, who has cleared 2.26m this year, and Saraboyukov having perfect records up to their eventual bests of 2.10m, they could not be separated and so shared the silver.
Mitkova wins long jump, Linares secures silver
Bulgaria’s 17-year-old Plamena Mitkova soared a PB when it mattered the most, leaping 6.66m to deny local favourite Natalia Linares a long jump victory in front of a passionate home crowd.
In an exciting final, Linares’ years of preparation for the moment were rewarded with silver, while Italy’s Marta Amouhin Amani achieved bronze.
Opening with 6.19m and then fouling in the next round, it was with her third jump that Bulgarian champion Mitkova really made a statement. As the mark of 6.66m (0.2m/s) flashed up on the scoreboard, she jumped into the top spot, and that’s where she stayed.
Linares, competing with the flag of her nation painted on her left cheek, had set a South American U20 record of 6.68m in July and it was going to take a similar jump to gain her the gold in Cali. The 19-year-old opened with 5.82m and improved with each of her next three jumps, as the rain continued to pour. Her 6.33m in the third round, met with huge cheers, moved her into silver medal position.
As the weather got worse, it made it harder for athletes to attack Mitkova’s third-round leading leap, although Linares did improve to her eventual silver medal-winning 6.59m (0.1m/s) in the fourth round.
Amani had taken the early lead, leaping 6.24m in the first round. As her rivals surpassed it she tried to respond, but couldn’t. Until the final round. Saving a lifetime best until last, she jumped 6.52m – a 1cm PB – to leap into bronze medal position.
With the silver secured, Linares went for the win. Her final leap was recorded as 6.52m. Mitkova rounded out her series with 6.57m and then two fouls but it didn’t matter, she had won the gold with a mark just 16cm off the championship record set by Fiona May in 1988.
“I can't breathe from happiness,” said Mitkova. “Everything went according to plan in the competition, but I think I can jump further. This medal is a big confidence boost.”
Linares was also delighted with her silver. “I'm so happy. We were expecting the gold medal, but I'm completely proud of the work we have done. This is a silver medal with the taste of a gold one,” she said. “Now, like a good Vallenata (a person from Valledupar, Colombia) I'm proudly wearing my ‘sombrero vueltiao’ (a traditional hat in Valledupar) and I just want to thank all Colombians and especially the people from Cali that showed up today. In every attempt that I had, it almost felt like this stadium was about to fall down, the support was amazing.”
Favourite Felfner gets gold
Ukraine’s Artur Felfner secured silver as a 17-year-old at last year’s world U20 event in Nairobi, also claiming the 2021 European U20 title, and now he has a global gold.
The now 18-year-old, who has spent the past few months based in Portugal and Finland due to the conflict in his home country, achieved the fourth-best mark of his career, in a year that has seen him take his personal best to a national U20 record and world U20 lead of 84.32m.
Felfner had trailed German U20 champion Max Dehning after the 17-year-old threw 77.24m in the second round, but the world U20 leader took command in the fifth round when he launched the implement 79.36m. Dehning was unable to respond, his 77.24m getting him silver, while bronze was bagged by Bahamian Keyshawn Strachan, last year’s seventh-place finisher, who threw 72.95m. India’s Vivek Kumar finished fourth with a 72.17m PB, while Eleftherios Kontonikolas of Cyprus was fifth with 72.11m.
“My goal was throwing over 80 metres. Today wasn't the day, but I feel so proud because the gold medal was also my goal,” said Felfner, who is also targeting the European Championships later this month. “This is huge. Right now my country is in war, so I do believe this is kind of a happiness in the middle of everything. It's a good motivation.”
Rachele Mori was another athlete to live up to her favourite status on day five of the championships. With the Italian U20 record of 68.04m she threw in Lucca in May, the 19-year-old led the entries for Cali by more than two metres and she ended up winning by almost four-and-a-half.
Mori had thrown 62.97m to take the lead in the second round of the competition but then the event was suspended because of the weather. When it resumed a few hours later, she improved with each of her next three throws, first to 63.82m, then 65.84m and finally 67.21m in the fifth round. Any of those marks would have been enough to win, Mexico’s Paola Bueno Calvillo her closest rival with 62.74m in the last round to build on her second-round 62.06m, and Japan’s Raika Murakami throwing 61.45m for bronze.
Two other athletes went beyond 61 metres - Valentina Savva of Cyprus throwing 61.17m and Villo Viszkeleti of Hungary recording 61.11m.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics