Yu Yuzhen at the Asian Youth Championships in Doha (© Organisers)
Four days of thrilling action at the 1st Asian Youth Championships concluded on Monday (11) with a grand finale at the Qatar Sports Club, with Chinese high jumper Ding Shuo tying the 2015 boys’ world-leading mark when he went over 2.15m.
The high jump final was nothing short of epic for a continental competition in the age group. Four jumpers – Ding, Sri Lanka’s Roshan Dammika Ranatungage Iraq’s Hussein Falah Hasan Al-Ibraheemi and India’s Tejaswin Shanker – all cleared 2.12m.
But when the bar was raised to 2.15m, only Ding went clear, on his second attempt, a personal best for an athlete who had heralded his potential when he cleared 2.08m as a 15-year-old. Ding then had one attempt at 2.17m before calling it a day.
Overall, a total of 16 countries won gold medals at the event, which will give pointers to who might also climb the podium at the forthcoming IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 in July. 27 countries appeared in the medal table although China dominated proceedings and topped the rankings with 16 gold, 11 silver and five bronze medals.
China started the championships in fine fashion on the first day when Yu Yuzhen set a javelin world youth best of 61.97m with the 500g implement on her first throw, adding 50 centimetres to the previous world best by Mackenzie Little, which was set when the Australian won at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships.
However, it should be noted that another Chinese girl, Xue Juan, threw 62.93m with the senior implement back in in 2003.
“I am so excited! Not only I won the gold medal, but I threw farther than anyone else before with the 500g spec, and all of this in my first trip outside China,” said the delighted 17-year-old from Fujian province.
“To be honest, I am not that surprised with the distance. I usually throw 57 metres or so in training with the 600g javelin, so over the 60-metre mark was well within my reach.”
Hosts Qatar also won their sole gold medal at the championships on day one, courtesy of Muhand Khamis Saifeldin’s victory in the 2000m steeplechase.
The Qatari beat his rivals with a late kick to win in 5:54.34. “It was really tough. In the last 400 metres I had to push hard, but I was determined to win and nothing could have stopped me,” said the winner.
“I am really happy with the win and with my time which helped me claim my ticket for Cali. I owe a lot to my father, a former runner, who inspired me to follow athletics.”
Indeed, the youngster’s father Khamis Abdulla Saifeldin competed in no fewer than three Olympic Games and three IAAF World Championships.
Singh strides away to 800m win
India’s 800m runner Beant Singh was in the spotlight on day two. He was in a class of his own in the two-lap event and strode to a comfortable victory, clocking 1:52.26, the eighth-fastest time in the world this year by a boy.
“I was feeling really good for this race and I have been preparing really well for this competition, so to win is a great satisfaction,” said the winner.
“I have only been in athletics for a short time, two or three years. I was a wrestler before and I was picked for a national team camp by world champion and Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar. It was at this moment that I noticed I had a talent for middle-distance running and I was encouraged to switch to athletics but Sushil remains a very big inspiration for me,” added Singh.
“Next stop for me is the World Youth Championships in Cali. I have set big expectations for myself, I want to beat the Indian national record there. The record is 1:51.11 and I know I can run in the 49s. I have done it in training and I aim to run it at the championships.”
The star of day three was Uzbek javelin thrower Vladislav Polyunin. The 17-year-old, who lives, trains and studies in Dubai, improved his personal best by a massive 18 metres to claim the gold medal with 79.11m, the best performance in the world for 2015.
“I didn’t train much the last couple of years due to hepatitis," said the stunned winner. "That explains the huge improvement, but I knew I was capable of throwing that far. I can even exceed the 80-metre mark, but I guess maybe even 79 metres could be enough to win gold in Cali."
Family javelin genes
Like Saifeldin, Vladislav has good genes for his event. His father, Dmitry, competed at the 1992 Olympic Games as well as the 1991 and 1993 IAAF World Championships, and can boast of a personal best of 85.74m.
“My father introduced me to athletics, along with my uncle who was also a javelin thrower. I love athletics and I dream of becoming an Olympic champion one day.”
Another world-youth-leading performance was set by Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser Naser in the 400m. The young Bahraini was simply unbeatable with her perfect style and pace, finishing in 53.02.
In the discus on Monday (11), Iran’s Sajjad Hassan Zare won with 53.06m and, although it was well behind his 57.86m personal best, he was a class of his own nonetheless.
His compatriot, Ehsan Hadadi, the Olympic silver medallist and 2011 world bronze medallist, is his role model.
“It’s been only three years since I started training,” said Zare, who had never competed outside Iran before. "I have met Hadadi once. He came to see me training and advised me to improve my technique and work on my speed, to become a champion like him.
“I know I can better my record and fight for gold in Colombia. I dream of seeing myself winning the Olympic gold medal one day.”
Yu Sen Shen doubled his gold medal tally with a well-deserved 200m victory. The slender sprinter from Chinese Taipei powered past everyone down the home straight to finish in 21.69. Shen had won the 100m dash on day one with a time of 10.48.
Vassilis Georgiotis for the IAAF