Niamh Emerson in the heptathlon 100m hurdles at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (© Getty Images)
Great Britain’s Niamh Emerson leads the heptathlon standings after two events on the third morning session of the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018. Emerson tallied 2106 points and her gold medal chances have been further emboldened by the unfortunate withdrawal of gold medal favourite Alina Shukh from Ukraine.
Shukh, the European U20 heptathlon champion, won the javelin title last night but sustained a hamstring injury in the process. She lined up for the heptathlon 100m hurdles with a strapped upper leg, began proceedings with a solid but unspectacular 14.68 – 0.4 adrift of her recently set lifetime best – before withdrawing from the competition during the warm-up to the high jump.
Emerson began her day brilliantly, breaking the 14-second barrier in the 100m hurdles for the first time with 13.77 before clearing 1.89m in the high jump on her third attempt – a performance which came as a surprise to the Brit.
“I didn’t see the equal PB in the high jump coming as my PB is from two years ago,” she said. “I’ve had a knee problem and I felt it in the last jump and I wanted to save myself for the long jump.”
After two events, Emerson has a healthy lead ahead of Australia’s Celeste Mucci (2022 points) and Anna Hall from the United States (1976 points). Reigning champion Sarah Lagger from Austria is eighth after two events with 1890 points but should make some headway on the leaders in the shot put.
World U18 champions Bett and Zazini sail through heats
Only once has Kenya failed to win the steeplechase title at the IAAF World U20 Championships – back in the inaugural edition in Athens, Greece in 1986 when the event was held over 2000m for the first and only time – and they have also taken gold and silver in 10 of the 16 editions.
The Kenyans have curiously only entered one athlete for the steeplechase in Tampere, but their sole entrant Leonard Bett, the world U18 champion, was a comfortable qualifier. He was the runner-up the second heat in 8:39.30 behind Ethiopia's Getnet Wale, who ran hard through the line in 8:39.15.
Wale, 17, will be looking to improve on his bronze medal from Bydgoszcz two years ago when he could have won the title if it wasn't for two ill-timed slips at the water jump on the last two laps. Uganda's Albert Chemutai also impressed in the first heat, covering the closing kilometre in 2:44.87 to win in 8:49.48.
History was also made in the second heat as Trung Cuong Nguyen became the first athlete from Vietnam to reach a final at the World U20 Championships. Nguyen finished third in an outright national record of 8:51.16.
Another world U18 champion in action on the third morning session was South Africa's Sokwakhana Zazini in the 400m hurdles. He hit the second hurdle but was otherwise impressive in the heats, qualifying at a canter in 51.21.
Moitalel Mpoke Naadokila was a silver medallist – albeit a distant one – behind Zazini in Nairobi last summer but the Kenyan was the fastest across the six heats with a lifetime best of 50.87.
Cory Poole, who will be contesting tonight's 110m hurdles final, opened proceedings with victory in the first heat in 52.12 but one notable absentee from the semifinal line-up is Mexico's Sergio Armando Esquivel – third on the 2018 world U20 list – who only cleared one hurdle before pulling up injured.
The British duo of Charles Dobson and Jona Efoloko led the 200m heats with identical lifetime best performances of 20.65 ahead of the United States' Khance Meyers in 20.70 and fastest entrant Eric Harrison in 20.73. After exiting in the 100m heats with a 10.70 clocking, South Africa’s Thando Dlodlo – who has run 20.41 for the 200m this season – was a non-starter in heat five.
Davis leads long jump qualifying; Wilson squeezes through to hammer final
USA's Tara Davis led the qualifying round of the long jump with a second-round jump of 6.40m but teammate and fellow world U20 leader Alyssa Wilson only just scraped through into the hammer final.
Wilson, who is competing in three throwing events across the programme despite the overlapping schedule, fouled out in yesterday's shot put final – an event in which she was expected to earn a medal – and her campaign for the hammer title began inauspiciously, opening with a no-throw before a modest 57.70m.
It was still nearly 10 metres short of her world U20 lead but a third-round improvement of 58.71m narrowly sufficed to qualify in 12th overall. The two pools were headed by Canada’s Camryn Rogers with 62.99m and Belarusian Tatsiana Ramanovich with 62.84m.
One notable absentee from Saturday’s final is China’s Asian U20 champion Zhou Mengyuan who failed to record a valid effort.
Steven Mills for the IAAF