The 6th IAAF World Youth Championships will remain in Isabelle Pedersen’s mind as a dream come true after the 17-year-old became Norway’s first ever World Youth champion in Bressanone.
Pederson won the girls’ 100m Hurdles in 13.23 after improving to the third all-time Youth best in the semi finals with a new personal best and national record 13.20. Only Adrianna Lamalle of France and Beijing Olympic silver medallist Sally McLellan of Australia have run faster aged under 18.
But for Pedersen, who couldn’t held back tears of joy when embraced by her team leaders and compatriots, today’s victory meant even more.
“It’s amazing, unbelievable,” she said. “You can’t even dream of becoming a World champion when you are my age!”
When told about the statistics her eyes open wide and as she turns to her coach she says: “What? Third fastest? All time? Really? I didn’t even know! It’s crazy.
“I knew I had a good time coming into these championships,” she reflects as she regains composure. “But the thought of a gold medal was never in my mind. I just wanted to be in the final and then what would come would come.
“I felt the most pressure in the first race,” she explains referring to her first round 13.35 which was already an improvement on the World Youth fastest time of the year.
“I didn’t know I had the third fastest of all time after the semi final so I didn’t feel that pressure to perform. What is on paper doesn’t matter. So I actually felt ok in the final. I just kept telling myself ‘repeat the semi – repeat the semi’.
“Ok everyone knew that I had the best time in the heats and then the semi so there was a little pressure because I heard people say ‘she’s the favourite’ but it was ok for me.”
Norway can boast another excellent result in the recent history of the event as Christina Vukicevic, Olympic Javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen’s girlfriend, won silver at the 2006 World Junior Championships.
But at the mention of her compatriot’s name, Pedersen quickly corrects: “yes I have trained with her before but I draw my inspiration in Susanna Kallur. First of all she is Nordic and second she is white but also fast. She is the one who proved that white girls can also run fast and can make it to the top.
“She is like ‘I’m white, so what?’ She has the World 60m Hurdles record and she is really someone who inspires me.
Pedersen’s approach of the sport came through her mother as she keenly recalls. “My mum used to practice athletics. I was 10 years old when I saw someone training on a track and I remember asking my mum ‘what’s that?’ and she said ‘that’s athletics, I used to do it’. So I wanted to try.
“It was extremely fun and it meant I could keep moving. I started with some high jump and long jump and then turned to hurdles and long jump when I was 11 or 12.”
So what is Pedersen’s favourite event?
There is no hesitation. “The Hurdles. But I will also compete in the Long Jump. I have no real expectations in the Long Jump. What I really wanted was to do well in the Hurdles, my goal was to be in the final and now that I have the gold medal it’s great.
“But I will of course try my best in the Long Jump and if I improve my personal best then this will be the perfect competition for me!”
No matter how well she competes in the Long Jump, Pedersen has already made quite an impression.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF