Jamal Walton of the Cayman Islands in action in the 400m (© Getty Images)
Jamal Walton of the Cayman Islands led a magic afternoon of world-class athletics on the opening day of the Pan-American U20 Championships at Trujillo’s Chan Chan stadium, where four event records fell in spectacular fashion.
Walton, fourth at the 2015 IAAF World U18 Championships, marked a special return to South American soil with an impressive 44.99 win in 400m, eclipsing the 10-year old championship record and becoming the 16th teenager in history to break the 45-second barrier.
“I am happy to win gold for the Cayman Islands,” said Walton, who held off USA’ Josephus Lyles (45.30) and Zachary Shinnick (45.98). “There’s a good atmosphere and the competition pushed me all the way to a fast time.”
In the women’s race, Roxana Gomez and USA’s Jaevin Reed set off to a close duel from the start, but the Cuban held a narrow lead to win gold in a national U20 record of 51.46, the third fastest time by an U20 athlete in the world in 2017.
Reed’s 51.71 was also inside the previous record set 10 years ago. Canada’s Kyra Constantine completed the podium in third with 52.63.
Gomez, who has been named on the Cuban team for the IAAF World Championships in London, showed her composure and experience from the previous continental U20 event, having also competed at the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2016 World U20 Championships.
Tia Jones, the world U20 bronze medallist, set the first championship record with her 13.01 in the 100m hurdles, closely followed by her compatriot Tara Davis (13.05), the fastest U20 woman in the world this year. Ecuador’s Maribel Caicedo, the 2015 world U18 champion and silver medallist at this event in 2015, settled for third in 13.41.
Davis showed her versatility by winning the long jump, a discipline in which she claimed the world U18 title in Cali in 2015. Her winning 6.51m leap was not considered as a competition record due to an illegal 2.4m/s tail wind.
Davis later anchored the US 4x100m team to victory in 44.07.
Tarik Brock also secured double gold. He first won a close 100m final in 10.45 (-0.4m/s), finishing just 0.01 ahead of Brazil’s Paulo de Oliveira. Felipe dos Santos, also of Brazil, was a further 0.01 behind in third.
One day later, Brock anchored the USA to a convincing win in the 4x100m, winning in 39.33.
Puerto Rico’s Ryan Sanchez erased the oldest record of the championships with an impressive 1:46.51 win in the 800m, eclipsing by almost a second and a half the previous mark of 1:47.85 set in 1980 by Brazil’s 1984 Olympic champion Joaquim Cruz.
“This is special for me, to win this gold for Puerto Rico and break the record that stood for so many years,” said Sanchez, who earned Puerto Rico’s first title at this event in six years.
Canada’s Marco Arop, who pushed him all the way, was rewarded with a personal best of 1:47.08 and the silver medal.
USA’s world U20 leader Laulauga Collins confirmed her favourite status in the discus and saved her best throw for last with a 59.29m effort to break the 20-year old mark (57.88m), set by her compatriot Seilala Sua.
“This is my first time travelling outside the United States and I am fortunate to bring gold to my country,” said Collins, who came within nine centimetres of her PB.
Jamaica’s Christopher Taylor delighted the crown with his impressive 200m win in 20.38, the second fastest time in the history of the championships, bettered only by Usain Bolt’s 20.13 clocking in 2003.
“I felt great here and I gave it all until the finish,” said Taylor, the 2015 world U18 400m champion, who shaved 0.21 off his personal best. “I am happy to win the first gold for Jamaica.”
Another record fell in the pole vault as Rachel Baxter (USA) entertained the large crowd with a personal best of 4.41m at the third time of asking. Already a winner at 4.30m, Baxter added one centimetre to the previous mark before three misses at 4.47m.
A week after becoming South America’s first individual world U18 champion, Claudio Romero took the continental discus gold in 62.30m, more than four metres better than his previous national record. Romero is also scheduled to contest the shot put.
In the women’s 200m, Ashlan Best honoured her last name by taking the title in 23.27, capping a successful day for Canada with four gold medals on Saturday.
Jean-Simon Desgagnes (3000m steeplechase), Laura Dickinson (5000m) and Victoria Tachinski (800m) also produced golden performances for Canada.
USA’s Taylor Werner came within 0.07 seconds of the event record in winning the 3000m gold in 9:16.12.
Ecuador enjoyed a successful first day with two victories in the women’s javelin and the men’s 10,000m race walk thanks to Yuleixi Angulo and Alexander Hurtado, respectively.
Carlos Hernandez took Colombia’s first medal with the 5000m gold, an event in which Yuri Labra Phuturi gave hosts Peru their first medal of the championships, a bronze.
Brazil enjoyed their first crown with Pedro Nunes winning the javelin with 74.58m. Colombia added a second gold with Maria Fernanda Murillo in the high jump (1.85m) as well as Cuba with Davisleidys Velazco in the triple jump (13.59m).
Another Cuban, world U20 silver medallist Adriana Rodriguez, is the current leader in the heptathlon after a 3593-point tally on the first day.
The Association of Pan American Athletics General Assembly and the second day of the South American and North and Central American Coaches Congress were also held on Saturday.
More than 500 athletes from 30 countries are participating at the event, held for the first time in Peru until Sunday.
Javier Clavelo Robinson (organisers) for the IAAF