After three days of competition at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships, one name was on the lips of everyone when the issue of who had been the revelation of the championships so far was discussed: Jamaica’s 400m winner Martin Manley.
Most of the smart money before the final of the event on Friday evening had been on USA’s Ryan Clark, who had run a youth world-leading time of 46.33 in the semifinals, or perhaps Manley’s compatriot Devaughn Baker.
Manley had arrived in Donetsk with a best of ‘only’ 46.95, although he gave a hint that he had plenty still in the tank when he improved to win his semifinal in 46.65.
However, in the RSC Olimpiyskiy stadium, Manley uncorked a time of 45.89, the second fastest clocking ever seen in the history of the championships, to drop more than a few jaws.
“Awesome, I did this for my coach (Donald ‘Danny’ Hawthorne). He has been waiting for me to shine like this. He told me that I’d run 45. He didn’t say when, where or how, but I came out here and did it.
“He has helped me with my confidence a lot. He is behind me, each morning he calls, telling me: 'Martin do this, Martin do that.' It paid off. You have to sacrifice a lot, I’ve missed a lot of exams to be here so I’m proud to be the World youth champion,” said Manley.
Barely a year ago, the gangling Manley had, in the words of one Jamaican official, “been struggling to break 15 seconds for the 100m!”
Well, to be fair, he was a lot faster than that but it was still apparent that Manley was no budding Usain Bolt or Asafa Powell at this stage of his career.
However, the respected Hawthorne – the early mentor of the likes of Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade – saw the rough diamond of a potentially outstanding 400m runner, who still needs a bit of polishing but has started to be cut into shape over the last 12 months.
“It also means that my coach is a very good man, if he can look into the future and tell what I was going to do like this. I wanted to run the 100m and he transferred me to the 400m, I told him then that I didn't want to do it but now I have no regrets."
Manley, in lane six, was disciplined enough to stick to his race plan of running a controlled first half of the race as Clark, one lane inside, went past him by 150 metres but the Jamaican had paced himself better and come down the home straight line a train.
“I glimpsed him (Clark) on my left shoulder and he came past me, then I waited until I came into the home straight. At that point, I told myself that I can’t go home with silver, I had to get gold. I didn’t panic and no pressure was there,” reflected Manley.
Inevitably, Manley was asked who the first male 400m World champion of the year was going to tip to follow in his footsteps and win over one lap of the track at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow next month.
It was an easy question for Manley to answer, the current Olympic and World champion Kirani James, the only man who has run faster than him at the World Youth Championships.
“For me it’s Kirani. He ran under 44 at the Olympics; he ran 43.9 at the Diamond League last week. I’m looking at him to run 43.3 or 43.4 this year,” said Manley, who revealed that the Grenadian has been a big influence on him.
"I watch his (James) videos every night, I really love his style and I try to mimic everything that he does. In fact, my coach always tells me that I run like him," added the prodigious Jamaican teenager, who moved up to second place on his nation’s all-time list for the event, behind a certain Usain Bolt.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF