Runner-up Serena Cole, winner Tina Clayton and bronze medallist Shawnti Jackson celebrate after the 100m final in Cali (© Marta Gorczynska)
For a country that has long ruled the women’s 100m at senior level, it seems almost unfair that Jamaica has such an enviable supply of talent still emerging in the teenage ranks. But at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 on Wednesday (3), the world was put on notice that the future of women’s sprinting could look a lot like its present – with yellow and green vests firmly to the fore.
Tina Clayton claimed her second straight world U20 100m title in a championship record and national U20 record of 10.95 (-0.1m/s), with her teammate Serena Cole – who’s also her schoolmate at that factory of fast runners, Edwin Allen High School – taking silver in 11.14.
Back in third, though, USA showed it also has a young sprinter capable of becoming a senior champion, and it likely won’t be long before Shawnti Jackson – the daughter of 2005 world 400m hurdles champion Bershawn – no longer has that piece of information mentioned alongside her name. The 17-year-old clocked a PB of 11.15 to take bronze and it was later confirmed that N’Ketia Seedo of the Netherlands would also claim a medal, matching that time – a national U20 record – to finish joint third.
Clayton got a flying start and, from there, the result was never in doubt, the 17-year-old putting open daylight between her and her rivals, staying low to the ground through the opening half before getting into full stride and zooming away to gold.
“Coming out, my mindset wasn’t about a personal best or championship record, it was to defend my title,” said Clayton. “I didn’t feel any pressure. I have all the confidence that I put in the work and I trusted my coach (Michael Dyke).”
Clayton’s twin sister Tia will be in action over 200m over the coming days and they will join Cole for the 4x100m relay, where the ratified world U20 record of 42.94 that Jamaica ran in last year’s world U20 final looks on borrowed time. “We will take that record,” said Tina.
As for what she hopes to achieve in the future?
“Just to go out there, do my best, make some money and make my family proud.”
Elsewhere, there was a dramatic finish in the men’s 110m hurdles where Matthew Sophia of the Netherlands saw gold slip away in cruel fashion after the final barrier, with Antoine Andrews of Bahamas powering through to victory in 13.23 (0.2m/s).
Sophia had overcome an error at the first and fifth barriers – the latter a severe one – to lead the race approaching the 10th hurdle, but he ran right into that with his lead leg, causing a huge stumble that put a stop to his momentum. Andrews blew by him to grab gold, with USA’s Malik Mixon taking silver in a PB of 13.27. Australia’s Mitchell Lightfoot took fourth in a PB of 13.48 with Enzo Diessl fifth in an Austrian U20 record of 13.54.
“I'm just overwhelmed right now, I'm at a loss for words,” said Andrews. “It's a dream come true. I came here from ups and downs, battling with injuries and mental blocks.”
Sophia wasn’t downbeat about his bronze, despite how close he came to gold. “The final was a bad act to the execution, I lost balance at the end, but I'm so glad to come third,” he said.
The women’s 800m produced a thrilling showdown between USA’s Roisin Willis and Switzerland’s Audrey Werro, with Willis winning in a championship record of 1:59.13 ahead of Werro’s 1:59.53, a national U20 record.
Willis – whose mother Breda Dennehy-Willis was a 5000m Olympian for Ireland in the Sydney Olympics – did it the hard way, towing the field through the opening lap in a swift 59.41 and trying to fend off every challenge that came her way.
She had contenders queuing up in her slipstream down the back straight, with Werro edging in front as they hit 600m in 1:29.50. Werro then went for broke, drawing a couple of metres clear and she looked to be headed for gold but, as it turned out, Willis had something left, powering past in the home straight to take gold.
“I wasn’t really expecting to take it out that first lap, but I trusted what I did in the semifinal and just kept going,” said Willis, who will soon be college teammates with bronze medallist Juliette Whittaker of USA at Stanford University. “The only thought in my head was, ‘don’t give up,’ and I knew if I was in second coming into the home stretch, I’d give it everything I have. I stuck to my promise.”
When it comes to the men’s 1500m final, meanwhile, it appears Kenya has a new star and his name is one we’re used to seeing up front at senior level: Cheruiyot. With a vicious home-straight kick, Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot left his rivals trailing, clocking 3:35.83 to announce his ability to the world, with Ethiopia’s Ermias Girma second in 3:37.24 and Kenya’s Daniel Kimaiyo third in 3:37.43.
Kimaiyo had thrown caution to the wind early in the race, ensuring it would be a fast one, passing 400m in 55.65, which is also known as sub-3:30 pace. They slowed on the second lap, passing 800m in 1:55.93, and Adihana Kasaye of Ethiopia swept to the front with a little over a lap to run. Cheruiyot attacked on the back straight and Kasaye held him off, but in the home straight Cheruiyot kicked it into overdrive and said a swift adios to his rivals, drawing a whopping 1.4 seconds clear – demonstrating the kind of kick that could take him an awfully long way at senior level.
“The race was so fine for me today, I could have handled any challenge,” said Cheruiyot. “I'm feeling so proud.”
Sralla celebrates success
In the women’s discus, Emma Sralla of Sweden sealed victory with a dominant display, one that was surpassed only by her superb celebration. The 17-year-old’s second-round effort of 54.94m was enough to take gold, but she extended that to 56.15m in the fourth round, which left her well clear of silver medallist Despoina Areti Filippidou of Greece, who threw 54.48m.
Once victory was confirmed, Sralla grabbed the Swedish flag and set off on a euphoric sprint around the turn before dropping to the ground, overcome with emotion. Bronze went to South Africa’s Mine de Klerk, who added to her shot put gold in Cali with a national U20 record of 53.54m. Just behind in fourth was USA’s Siniru Iheoma with 53.15m.
After day one of the heptathlon, Finland’s Saga Vanninen is well on track to retain the title she won in Nairobi last year, racking up 3666 points, 28 points above what she had after the first day in last year’s final. Vanninen started off with a PB of 13.52 in the 100m hurdles, then cleared 1.72m in the high jump, threw 14.18m in the shot put and clocked 24.49 in the 200m. In second overnight is Germany’s Sandrina Sprengel on 3591, while Luna Goureau of France sits third on 3577.
In the men’s 200m semifinals, Botswana's sprint star Letsile Tebogo picked up where he left off in this morning’s heats – when the 19-year-old set a championship record of 19.99 (0.4m/s) – and won in 20.23 (-1.2m/s) ahead of Turkey’s Anthony Smith, who set a national U20 record of 20.83. The fastest in the semifinals was Israel’s Blessing Akawasi Afrifah, who set a national U20 record of 20.17 (-0.2m/s) to advance ahead of South Africa’s Benjamin Richardson (20.39). The third semifinal went to Jamaica’s Bryan Levell in a PB of 20.34 (0.1m/s) ahead of Australia’s Calab Law who clocked a PB of 20.42. USA’s Brandon Miller (20.57) and Britain’s Jeriel Quainoo (20.43) advanced on time.
USA was firmly to the fore in the women’s 400m hurdles semifinals, with Akala Garrett edging Sweden’s Hanna Karlsson to win the first semifinal, 57.28 to 57.34, both setting PBs, while USA’s Michaela Rose claimed victory in the last semifinal in 57.83 ahead of Poland’s Wiktoria Oko (58.28) The second semifinal went to South Africa’s Anje Nel, who clocked 57.76 ahead of Michelle Smith of Virgin Islands, who set a national U20 record of 57.83. Italians Alessia Seramondi (58.07) and Ludovica Cavo (57.78) also advanced as non-automatic qualifiers.
Britain’s Yemi Mary John was the quickest in the women’s 400m semifinals, clocking a PB of 51.72 to advance ahead of Kenya’s Damaris Mutunga (52.29). The second semifinal went to India’s Rupal in a PB of 52.27 ahead of Jamaica’s Dejanea Oakley (52.29), with Norway’s Henriette Jaeger advancing in third with her national U20 record of 52.33 and Australia’s Ellie Beer also going through in 52.55. Spain’s Berta Segura won the last semifinal in 52.51 from South Africa’s Precious Molepo (53.28).
Jamaica’s Delano Kennedy was the quickest semifinal winner in the men’s 400m, clocking a PB of 45.49 ahead of USA’s Steven McElroy (45.67). South Africa’s Lythe Pillay was ultra-impressive in winning his semifinal in 45.61 ahead of Jamaica’s Shaemar Uter (45.96). Botswana’s Busang Collen Kebinatshipi also took victory in 45.91 ahead of Joshua Atkinson, who clocked a Thai U20 record of 46.13 to march into the final.
Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics