Amanda Almendariz in the hammer at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 (© Getty Images)
Coming into the girls’ hammer final, Cuba’s Amanda Almendariaz wouldn’t have been most people’s idea of the champion, but with a rapid spin, a slingshot release and a high, arcing trajectory of the metal sphere, she changed that in the space of a few seconds.
The 16-year-old continued Cuba’s fine championships by unleashing a whopping PB in the second round of 71.12m, adding almost three metres to her previous best. It was an effort that rightly drew gasps from the near-capacity crowd in Kasarani Stadium when it bashed into the turf beyond the 70-metre line to establish a world U18 leading mark which moved her to number seven on the U18 all-time list.
“I’m very happy to have won gold for my country and to help Cuba move up in the medal table,” said Almendariaz.
Her closest rival – though in truth it didn’t prove close at all – was teammate Yaritza de la Martinez, who in the second round launched the sphere 69.75m, just 12cm down on her PB. Try as she might over the ensuing four efforts, she could manage no better, and in the end she willingly committed a series of fouls after seeing the ball land shy of her previous mark.
The bronze medal was taken by Belarus’s Katsiaryna Valadkevich, who looked likely to challenge the Cuban pair beforehand but was unable to muster her best on the evening. She saved her best attempt, 68.17m, for the fifth round, an effort that would often have been good enough for gold, but tonight only worthy of bronze.
“It was not my best performance,” said Valadkevich. “I’ll put more effort in training so that I win medals in the forthcoming championships. The fans out there were amazing – they urged us on and that’s very important.”
Back in fourth, France’s Juliette Ciofani broke new ground, breaking her PB twice in one evening, first with 66.85m in the opening round then extending that to 67.02m in the fifth round.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF