Sokwakhana Zazini wins the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Tampere, Finland

Report: men's 400m hurdles – IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018

Pushed to the line and tested to the limit in a fiercely competitive race, Sokwakhana Zazini lived up to the massive expectations heaped upon his slight shoulders to strike gold in the 400m hurdles and take South Africa's second-ever men's gold in the event, and to join Zenéy van der Walt for the country's sweep of the discipline at these championships.

The 17-year-old, who took the U18 title in Nairobi last year, ran relaxed for the first half, leaving himself with much to do in the second. Caught in a fierce four-man tussle with just 60 metres remaining, Zazini shifted gears and made up some ground over the penultimate hurdle, but still trailed Qatari Bassem Hemeida as they approached the last. And Hemeida, running the race of his life, showed little sign of slowing. Zazini dug deep, and didn't catch him until they were three strides from the finish, crossing the line in 49.42.

"The competition was really tough but I'm really happy with my team," Zazina said. "This is a really special and proud moment for me and my country." 

In a quality race, the top three dipped under 50 seconds for just the fourth time at these championships.

Hemeida, 17, clocked 49.59, slicing nearly a full second from his previous best of 50.55.

"This is my first time running sub-50 seconds and it came at the right time," Hemeida said. "These championships have given me a lot of experience so hopefully you'll see me at the world senior championships in Doha next year."

Alison dos Santos of Brazil, who ran strong for the gun, was rewarded for his aggressiveness with bronze and a 49.78 lifetime best.

"I didn't expect a medal so I'm very happy with the bronze," he said. "Now, I will party!" 

It's likely that so to will Jamaican Leonardo Ledgister, who also dipped under 50 seconds, clocking 49.93 for fourth, just ahead of teammate Malik James-King who timed 50.25.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF