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Anecdotes from the IAAF World Youth Championships


Phil Minshull in Bydgoszcz for the IAAF

Men's discus winner Chang Ming-Huang, from Chinese Taipei, raised eyebrows when he said that he had the unusual hobby of collecting knives and forks. "It's quite a fashion in Taipei at the moment," he explained. Staff at his team hotel were expected to count the cutlery very carefully as the team left on Monday.

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Shopping featured highly on several winners' list of hobbies including the Chinese men's long jump winner Yapeng Shang and American sprinter LaShuntea Moore, the women's 200 winner. "I'm going to celebrate my victory by going to the shops in Bydgoszcz on Monday and buying chocolates and other presents for my coach and friends back in China," Shang said.

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Kenya's Cheruiyot Cherono finished his 2,000 steeplechase so quickly that he almost lapped Tajikistan's Nurridin Irmatov despite the race only lasting five circuits of the Zawisza stadium track.

Cherono stopped the clock in 5:31.89, the second fastest time ever for a 17 year-old in the event while Irmatov came home in 6:55.15, just managing to get across the line by barely a metre before he would have seen Cherono fly past his shoulder.

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If the residents of the English holiday town of Brixham in Devon see someone in a Germany tracksuit they should not be too bemused - it's only women's javelin winner Olivia Norris visiting her grandparents. Germany's gain is Britain's loss as Olivia's father, Tony Norris, moved to Germany 24 years ago and is now the coach of the Bydgoszcz gold medallist, who now lives in the Bavarian town of Augsburg.

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Several of the Kenyan and South African distance runners, including men's 3,000 metres winner Pius Muli, competed in Bydgoszcz without track spikes. However the reason why was a matter of personal preference. In the case of Botswana's Modisa Leselamose, who finished 11th out 31 finishers in the race won by Muli, it was out of personal necessity - his family has never been able to afford spikes and he has never owned a pair.

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Many of the competitors in Bydgoszcz can claim sporting relations. Among the most notable were Slovakia's Irina Besrovnaja, who finished sixth in the women's triple jump final, who is the daughter of long jump world record holder Galina Christyakova and former Russian triple jump star Aleksandr Beskrovniy. The sister of men's pole vault winner Sebastian Homo is the women's French record holder for the event, Amandine Homo. Australia's Georgie Clarke, the winner of the women's 800, is a distant relative of distance running legend Ron Clarke and her father was also a professional Australian Rules football player for Carlton and Geelong.

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Krisztian Pars, the Hungarian winner of the men's hammer, has only been practising his event for two years after his parents suggested to him that he take up the event to toughen up his character. They asked the famous coach Laszlo Nemeth if he could attend his infamously rigourous training sessions, although his son Pal Nemeth now coaches Pars.

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Finland's Robert Haggblom, winner of the men's shot put with a new national age-group record, was fourth in the 100 backstroke in the Finnish youth swimming championships two years ago.

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Asked why Nicholas Wachira, the men's 800 winner, switched from 400 hurdles last year, Kenyan coach Robert Ngisinei was refreshingly honest. "He's a very promising athlete but there is no future in being a 400 hurdler in Kenya. We have few facilities and little technical expertise. It might have been possible if Nicholas had lived in Nairobi but he comes from a rural area."

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No poles in Poland! The four American vaulters faced their worst nightmare upon arrival in Bydgoszcz. All their personal poles had been lost en route. Team translator Tomas Gaszynski came to the rescue. He contacted his cousin, a friend of 1999 world indoor heptathlon champion Sebastian Chmara and the Maebashi gold medallist instructed local officials to allow the quartet access to his stash of poles near the stadium.

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