In what was a wide-open, mistake-laden race, it was France’s Matteo Ngo who kept his head when many around him were losing theirs and took victory in a blanket finish in the boys’ 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Friday night (17), running a personal best of 13.53 right when he needed it most.
After the semi-finals earlier in the evening, few would have foreseen the title going back to France for the first time since Ladji Doucoure struck the first gold medal in the history of the IAAF World Youth Championships at the inaugural edition in 1999.
Ngo had run a lifetime best of 13.53 in his semi-final, good enough only for third, but he booked his place in the final via a fastest non-automatic qualifier spot.
In the final, it was the USA’s Isaiah Lucas who got a flying start and approaching the seventh hurdle, he marginally led Ngo, but the American’s trail leg clattered that barrier and the subsequent loss of momentum proved crucial.
Running in lane one, Ngo took command of the race and having cleared all 10 barriers cleanly and crisply, he then timed his dip perfectly at the line to take the title.
“I knew I had a chance at gold,” said Ngo. “This was my goal, but during the race I couldn’t see anything. It was so close. I only knew I had got it after (I crossed the line).”
In keeping with the theme of the race, Canada’s Joseph Daniels was a surprise silver medallist, edging Lucas in a photo finish, with both athletes given a time of 13.54 in a race where just 0.04 separated the first six.
“Coming into this, I just wanted to make the final,” said Daniels. “I realised after the semi I had a chance to win it as my time (13.49) was tied for fastest. During the race I felt I was ahead but (Ngo) had an amazing last half, so congrats to him. I never saw him.
“My sixth and seventh hurdles were a little sloppy and I think that’s what did it in the end, but I’m still super happy with second.”
Bronze medallist Lucas was also pleased with his performance, despite his awareness that a mid-race error may have cost him the title.
“I feel like I got in too close to the hurdle,” he said. “I didn’t get my knee up fast enough.”
Far from getting upset about potentially losing the gold, though, Lucas was instead looking forward to getting back to Houston, Texas, to celebrate what he said was an unexpected bronze medal. “I can’t wait to go home and tell everybody,” he said. “I have a lot of support.”
Meanwhile, for the 17-year-old champion Ngo, it was time to look forward to the next step of his journey.
“It’s a fantastic stage for me,” he said, “but there are many stages to go.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF