Takumu Furuya at the Asian Youth Games (© David Tarbotton)
After three days of a heatwave, milder temperatures prevailed on the final evening of the four-day athletics competition at the Asian Youth Games held in Nanjing, China, that finished on Thursday (22).
The Games were open to athletes aged 15 or 16 years; the same athletes will be still eligible for the second Youth Olympic Games to be held next year in the same city and there were healthy crowds in excess of 20,000 on most evenings, which augurs well for next year’s Olympics.
The limelight was shared by many of the athletes who a month earlier had competed at the IAAF World Youth championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, including Japan’s Takumu Furuya, who showed himself to be one of the finest all-round young hurdlers in the world.
In Donetsk, Furuya placed fourth in the 400m Hurdles in 51.00, but in Nanjing he switched his attention to the 110m Hurdles. Arriving at the meeting, he owned a personal best of 13.92, which he smashed in the heat, running 13.64, before destroying this best again with 13.36 in the final; the second-fastest time in the world for his age.
"From the preliminary to the final, everything was smooth, although I got an injury some days before I came here. But finally I made it, I got the gold medal, I am so happy," Furuya said.
In the women’s 100m Hurdles, Japan’s Nana Fujimori lived up to expectations, coasting to the line nearly a flight ahead of her closest rival. There was unsteadiness on the line at the first attempt to start the race, but no one was disqualified.
“The first false start had no effect on me,” commented Fujimori. Her winning time of 13.69, into a slight headwind, was faster than she recorded in Donetsk, where she made the semi-finals, but the time was just outside her personal best of 13.66 recorded last year.
One coach and one school in China produced four gold medallists in Nanjing.
Yang Junwei, a coach at the Lianyungang Sports school in Lianyungang city, located in the Jiangsu Province which is hosting the Asian Youth Games, guided athletes to four titles in the throwing events.
The gold rush started on the second night with Yin Dong winning the girls’ Shot Put with 16.84m.
"She was a little impetuous in her second put, so I told her that she should watch her psychological attitude," said coach Yang sternly.
“She will try her best to take part in the Youth Olympic Games next year. I hope she can be selected to the national team. She trains five times a week and every time for one-and-a-half hours.”
Later that evening, Yuanbo Ding won the boys’ Hammer Throw title by more than 10 metres with a distance of 73.73m. On the final evening, two of Yang’s athletes won Discus titles.
The bronze medallist in Donetsk, Yulong Cheng dominated the boys’ Discus from his first throw of 58.30m. His series included two throws past 60 metres, but his winning mark of 62.03m in the final round was just short of his personal best of 62.80m set in Donetsk, which was the world’s leading under-17 performance this year.
"I didn't feel good about the last throw. I was a little surprised because I didn't expect to throw that far,” he said. "I'm very excited. It's not until today that all my toil and sweat finally paid off. I'm grateful for the chance that allowed me to perform well here."
The fourth gold for the Yang-coached group was acquired by girls’ Discus champion Kangping Sun, who threw 49.28m in the first round to win the gold medal by nearly five metres.
“I'm very excited now. In the beginning of the competition, I felt very nervous, but I got more and more relaxed. My coach told me to compete at my normal level, take it easy and perform as usual.”
Aged just 15 years, Hussain Al Hizam is Saudi Arabia’s best ever pole vaulter, raising the national absolute record on five occasions this year, taking it from 4.95m to 5.27m. In Nanjing, Al Hizam negotiated 4.70m on his third attempt, which was sufficient to take the title.
The boys’ Javelin was a come-from-behind win for Chinese Taipei’s Jenwei Tsai. After three rounds, China’s Zhuqing Su led comfortably with his first-round throw of 67.35m, ahead of Chinese Taipai’s Sungming Lee on 65.90m and China’s Ao Zhou was lying third with 64.94m. However, the competition changed dramatically in round five when Tsai launched the Javelin out to 70.41m to take the lead by more than three metres. Su produced a personal best of 67.51m with the event’s final throw to confirm his silver medal.
"My best throw tonight was made when I felt well and I found my confidence back,” said Tsai.
“My earlier throws were not that good, so I adjusted my mentality. I took a medal, which made me happy and satisfied. But I won't have a party or travel in Nanjing to celebrate. I will fly back (home) soon, because when school starts I will have many other competitions."
Favourite for the boys’ Shot Put was local athlete Jianping Han, who started slowly but eventually secured the victory with his very last effort of 18.87m, a personal best.
China dominated the competition taking 19 gold medals ahead of Japan, who had four wins, and Thailand with three.
David Tarbotton for the IAAF