Young Australian thrower Matthew Denny made light of a heavy work-load in taking two gold medals as the athletics at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival finally got under way in Sydney on Saturday (19).
The extreme heat which forced the cancellation of competition on Friday saw a two-day program compressed into one and meant that the 17-year-old Denny would have to throw twice in the day – Hammer in the morning and Discus in the afternoon – rather than just once.
Denny destined for Donetsk
On top of having been torchbearer at the Opening Ceremony, it was an imposing load but Denny, who boasts a list of IAAF World Youth Championships qualifiers almost as impressive as his young frame, was scarcely bothered.
He came out in the morning, with the boy’s Hammer being the first event on the programme, and threw a massive personal best of 79.26m to win from New Zealand’s Matt Bloxham, who was also over 70 metres with 71.79m and was back in the afternoon to take the Discus with a distance of 64.46m, ahead of China’s Liangyu Chen who was second with 61.79m.
"That’s a massive personal best (in the Hammer), it's four metres on my old best mark and that’s great," said Denny. "I was so happy with the technique behind it and to know that I can throw that far gives me such a boost." Denny said the performance helps set him up for his main goal, the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, in July.
"The World Youths are my big goal this year and the confidence today gives me to do well there is phenomenal, it means that I will mix it with the best if I am selected to compete and you can't complain about going into an event as someone that is in contention."
Australian competitors dominated the competition in numbers, taking 26 of the 40 events on offer. China won 10, New Zealand three and Brazil one.
Individually, though, it was just a step on the way to Donetsk. Australian athletes must achieve the Australian standards for Donetsk, which are generally tougher than the IAAF marks and considerably so in most track events, as well as win at the national junior championships in Perth in March to be guaranteed selection.
Denny's 16-year-old teammate, Yasenaca Denicaucau, won the girl's Shot Put and Discus while Alex Hulley took the girl's Hammer gold for the hosts. China's Jiayu Yang won the girl's javelin.
Chinese horizontal jumpers impress
China’s Jianan Wang, 2012’s best youth with 8.04m, took the boy’s Long Jump with a big 7.86m – a distance better than the gold medal-winning mark at the last World Youth Championships in 2011 – from Australia's Henry Smith, who got a personal best of 7.53m, while Yaoqing Fang took the Triple Jump with 15.62m ahead of Australia's Shemaiah James, with 15.05m.
Australia's Aliyah Johnson had a narrow win over Tingchao Zeng in the girl's Long Jump, 6.02m metres to 5.93m, while Wang Rong went out to a huge 13.65m to win the Triple Jump by more than 1.5 metres.
Johnson, who is a member of the same training group as Olympic Long Jump silver medallist Mitchell Watt, also won the 100m Hurdles in 13.89 and was a member of the sprint medley relay winning team.
Australia’s Perth-based Pole Vault training centre continues to return big dividends with Nina Kennedy and Emma Phillippe both equalling their personal bests with 4.10m and 4.00m respectively.
The first two in the girls’ High Jump, Nicola McDermott and Hannah Joye, also bettered the Australian selection standards with both going over 1.80m, the verdict going to McDermott.
Australia’s Anas Abu-Ganaba took a sprint double, running 10.88 to win the 100m and 21.89 for the 200m. Zoe Hobbs took the girls’ 100m for New Zealand in 12.42 while Qingqing Zhan was another winner for China in the girls’ 200m in 24.77.
China’s Bokai Huang cleared 5.00m to win the boys’ Pole Vault while Yang Lu was an impressive winner of the 110m Hurdles in 13.70.
The tougher Australian standards continued to elude Hugh Nicklason but he nonetheless took out an impressive double in the boy’s middle-distance events, taking the 800m in 1:52.64 and the 1500m in 3:54.11, the latter breaking Ryan Gregson’s meeting record.
Brazil’s only gold medal of the competition came from Weverton Fidelis, who took the boys’ 3000m in 8:40.69.
After Friday’s record heat, the second day of competition was held in mild conditions with temperatures in the low to mid-20s and overcast conditions. There were even occasional light showers.
On Friday, the temperature in Sydney’s Central Business District on Friday peaked at 45.8C at 2:55pm, 0.5C hotter than the previous hottest day on record, which was recorded 74 years ago in January, 1939.
Last summer (2011-12), Sydney recorded just two days of 30C-plus weather. On average, one day of 40-Cplus is recorded every three summers, but Friday was the second one already in January.
Len Johnson for the IAAF