Ewa Swoboda in the 100m at the IAAF World Junior Championships Oregon 2014 (© Getty Images)
‘Coming events cast their shadow before them’ is a well-known Chinese proverb and its meaning proved perfectly apt as a busy second athletics session provided some key pointers for the finals which lie ahead at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing on Thursday (21).
On a warm evening which exclusively featured qualification action, talented teenage athletes served up a pair of world leads in the 2000m steeplechase, a series of impressive throws in the field and a moment of high drama in the boys 100m.
Jamaica’s Raheem Chambers – the world number two youth this year – had arrived in China as an overwhelming favourite for the blue riband event and for 85 metres of his 100m heat he looked every inch a champion in the making.
The 16-year-old had opened up five-metre gap on the field when, dramatically, his leg appeared to tighten, his stride shortened and he limped across the line in serious discomfort.
Chambers had claimed the heat win in 10.68 and has earned safe passage into the final.
However, he immediately fell to the floor clutching his hamstring and was later removed from the track by a stretcher, which must cast doubt on his availability to compete in Saturday’s medal showdown.
The quickest qualifier was Australia’s Trae Williams, who slashed a massive 0.24 from his lifetime best to take heat four victory in 10.51.
A stunned Williams said: “I wasn’t expecting it, but I was hoping it would come along. I knew If I got my start right and executed my race well I would be able to get through (to the A final). Hopefully, I will now win the final.”
In the distaff version, pre-event favourite Ewa Swoboda - who on the start line made her trademark hand gesture in the shape of a heart– hacked 0.12 from her lifetime best blasting to a heat win in 11.30 to catapult up to number two on the 2014 world youth lists.
Unleashing a scream of joy and bursting into a jig of delight after the race, the Pole, who finished fifth in the 100m final at last month’s IAAF World Junior Championships, said: “Oh my gosh, I’m really happy. This is a dream. I’m very surprised by the time. It is so cool.”
Her margin ahead of the second fastest qualifier - Xiaojing Liang - of China was a huge 0.34.
No barriers for Chepngetich in her progress to the final
Last year’s IAAF World Youth Championships gold medallist, and 2014 World Junior Championships 3000m steeplechase silver medallist, Rosefline Chepngetich underlined her status as favourite in the girls’ 2000m steeplechase with an emphatic display. The 17-year-old Kenyan set a world leading mark of 6:20.11 to qualify some 17 seconds of her nearest rival.
In the boys’ equivalent, Ethiopia’s Wegene Sebsibe clipped more than a second-and-a-half from his previous world leading mark to lead the qualifiers by more than five seconds with an impressive personal best of 5:34.24.
In the field, the throwers produced a series of powerhouse performances led by world youth record holder Bence Halasz in the boys’ hammer.
The Hungarian teenager comfortable led the qualifiers courtesy of a huge second effort of 83.68m and could even afford to pass his final two throws.
“Yes, I am very satisfied with my result,” said Halasz, a training partner of Olympic and European champion Krizstian Pars. “The competition was late in the evening but I threw well. I enjoyed it very much. My future aim is to make the big Olympics.”
In both shot put competitions, the world leaders comfortably led the qualifiers.
In the boys event giant Pole Konrad Bukowiecki hurled the metal ball out to 22.34m while Russia’s world youth leader Alena Bugakova lived up to her big reputation with a best of18.86m.
Meanwhile, in the girl’s hammer, Australia’s Alex Hulley led the qualifiers with a new personal best of 70.87m; significantly ahead of Hungary’s world youth leader Zsofia Bacskay, who qualified third best with 69.35m.
Anatoliy Ryapolov, the 2013 world youth champion, will be the man to beat in the A final of the men’s long jump competition after the Russian easily topping qualification with an impressive first round leap of 7.65m. It was the second longest leap by an under-18 athlete in the world this year and as he is also the owner of the top mark.
Czech high jumper Michaela Hruba will be hopeful of going one better in Nanjing than she did at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene last month as she was one of three joint top qualifiers with a perfect record up to and including 1.78m.
Finally, Gilbert Soet - who appeared to wave to a group of fellow Kenyan’s he spotted with a lap remaining in his heat of the boys 1500m - confidently headed the qualifiers in a personal best of 3:45.21.
Steve Landells for the IAAF