An engrossing, exhilarating men’s 1500m final won by Kenya’s George Manangoi proved the highlight of day three at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 on Thursday (12).
Fending off the challenges of the formidable Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Samuel Tefera and Justus Soget, Manangoi backed up his world U18 title with a wonderfully resilient win, hitting the line in 3:41.71 to ensure that the U18, U20 and senior world 1500m titles now all belong to the same household.
Ingebrigtsen of Norway took silver in 3:41.89, bronze went to Soget of Kenya in 3:42.14, with Britain’s Jake Heyward fourth in 3:43.76.
It says much about the race’s quality that Tefera, the world indoor champion from Ethiopia, could only finish fifth in 3:43.91, although this was no ordinary world U20 final, but likely the best field ever assembled at this level.
The race started at a crawl, Kenya’s Justus Soget taking a hesitant lead and towing the field through 400m in 63.11. On the second lap, gold medal favourite Tefera gradually moved to the front, passing 800m in 2:05.74.
By then, the gears were turning throughout the pack, a ripple effect of panic and chaos breaking out as everyone tried to shuffle into position for the bell lap.
Tefera began to pour it on at the front, a 56.49-second lap taking them to the bell in 2:48.10. Up the back straight, Tefera went all-in, churning out a ferocious tempo and leading into the final turn, but Soget and Ingebrigtsen were coming, ready to strike.
Soget was the first to go by, then Ingebrigtsen came over the top of him, wrestling to the front with mere metres to run. But finishing fastest of all was the forgotten man: Manangoi.
“I'm very grateful,” said Manangoi. “I wasn't confident that I could win but I did my best and now I know I have the talent.”
Ingebrigtsen took a defeated look to his right near the finish, trying but unable to muster anything else in his bid for gold, but he was content with an excellent silver.
“I obviously wanted to go for the gold but I'm happy,” he said. “I had to run in lane two a lot, which is not a good thing but all in all, this was a great experience. I'm going to bed early now as I'm running the 5,000m final on Saturday.”
Age no barrier for Williams
Youth may well be wasted on the young, but that’s not an accusation you could level at Briana Williams, who at 16 surprised everyone – apart from coach Ato Boldon – by taking gold in the women’s 100m in 11.16.
The favourite, Twanisha Terry of USA, had clocked a blistering championship record of 11.03 in her semi-final earlier in the night, but when the pressure came on she couldn’t repeat it.
Terry was unable to pull back Williams over the latter half of the race after the Jamaican’s flying start, and had to settle for silver with 11.19, with Kristal Awuah taking third with 11.37.
“It feels amazing to win this race,” said Williams. “I’ve been training for this race all season long.”
For her coach Ato Boldon, it was all part of the plan.
“We knew that she’d most likely be in the lead at 50 metres,” he said. “I told her before the race that if she panics, then the others will go past her, but if she holds her form, she can win it.”
Minutes before, the men’s 110m hurdles delivered Jamaica’s first title of the week, Damion Thomas living up to his favourite’s billing by powering to victory in 13.16 ahead of compatriot Orlando Bennett. Japan’s Shunsuke Izumiya took third in 13.38.
Das makes history for India
With a power-packed finish, India’s Hima Das sealed her nation’s first ever medal in the 400m at the IAAF World U20 Championships, sling-shotting to the lead down the home straight and coming home a clear winner in 51.46.
It made her the first Indian woman to win a global title of any kind and the first Indian, male or female, to win a global track title.
Das had looked an overwhelming favourite for gold throughout the rounds, but on an evening of surprises it looked like another one was on the cards midway through the 400m final. She went off in conservative fashion, and was no better than fourth as she entered the final turn.
But, as she said afterwards, “my biggest strength is the last 100m.”
She torched up the home straight and was drawing away at the finish, coming home well clear of Miklos, who grabbed silver with a PB of 52.07. Manson claimed bronze for USA with a strong run of 52.28.
“I'm very proud to hold the Indian flag on my shoulders,” said Das. “I'd like to thank India and my team leader and my coach.”
Svabikova soars to new level
In the women’s pole vault, Amalie Svabikova produced the finest series in her of her life to take gold, the standout performer on a damp, difficult evening for vaulting.
She secured victory with a clearance of 4.40m, but not content with that she raised the bar to 4.51m and duly sailed clear to establish a Czech U20 record.
"I still don't believe it, today was so good," said Svabikova, who was seventh at these championships two years ago and fifth at the European juniors last year.
Behind her, the rest of field struggled. 4.20m dwindled the field to eight, but only five remained after 4.30m: Svabikova, Swede Lisa Gunnarsson, authorised neutral athlete Yelizaveta Bondarenko, Olivia McTaggart of New Zealand and Frenchwoman Alice Moindrot.
Gunnarsson went over 4.35m on her second try, Moindrot and Bondarenko with their third, while McTaggart bowed out. All missed at 4.40m, with countback giving silver to Gunnarsson and bronze to Moindrot.
In the women’s discus, Moldova claimed its second ever medal in the history of these championships, and it was the best kind: gold.
Alexandra Emilianov’s best effort of 57.89m came in the third round, and it was more than good enough for gold. Finland’s Helena Leveelahti, inspired by a supportive home crowd, breached new ground in second with a national U20 record of 56.80m. Cuba’s Silinda Oneisi Morales took bronze with 55.37m.
Welteji leads all the way
Ethiopia claimed its first gold medal of the week in the women’s 800m, a fearless front-running performance from Diribe Welteji delivering her nation its first ever title in the two-lap event.
Welteji took the race on the moment the gun fired, leading through 400m in a swift, but not senseless, 58.98. She was the only one able to maintain that kind of tempo, and she came home an easy winner in 1:59.74, a championship best and the first sub-two in the championships’ history.
Silver went to Carley Thomas of Australia in a PB of 2:01.13, with Switzerland’s Delia Sclabas third in 2:01.29.
After four events of the heptathlon, Britain’s Niamh Emerson appears to be well on her way to a world title, though it’s still all to play for on day two.
She racked up 3690 points on day one courtesy of an outstanding morning where she set PBs in both the hurdles and high jump, clocking 13.76 and soaring over 1.89m. A 12.27m shot put and a 24.80 200m gives her a slight overnight lead over Cuba’s Adriana Rodriguez, who has 3634.
“The first two events were amazing this morning, then the shot put was solid but I wanted more from the 200m,” said Emerson.
Austria’s Sarah Lagger is marginally behind on 3609, but should make a bold bid on day two. Her day was highlighted by a championship best of 14.38m in the shot put.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF