Youth and Junior athletes are the future of track and field, no one will argue with this. But sometimes they are also the present our sport.
Coming into these championships everyone was expecting to see young rising star Allyson Felix and Usain Bolt deal with their first major senior championships.
Both Felix, 17 years of age, and Bolt, 16, competed in the World Junior Championships last year in Kingston, Jamaica with the former finishing fifth in the women’s 200m and the latter winning the men’s 200m final.
Felix set a new 200m junior record of 22.11 in Mexico City last 3 May – a record which was not ratified because of the lack of doping control. Bolt equalled the World Junior record of 20.13 last July just days after claiming the World Youth title in Sherbrooke, Canada.
But the Paris 2003 Saint-Denis World Championships proved to be consecration time for another couple of junior athletes, Bolt being left out of the individual and relay squads “in order not to burn him out too soon” according to Jamaican sources and Felix finishing a disappointing sixth in her quarter final 200m.
Yesterday, a young Ethiopian of 18 years of age became the youngest ever individual gold medallist in the history of the IAAF World outdoor championships when defeating the rest of the competitors – some more than a decade older than her – in the final of the 5000 metres.
Tirunesh Dibaba took advantage of the very slow pace of the race and proved that despite her young age she had tactics in her blood when sprinting for the line in the last twenty metres.
Winner of this winter’s junior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Dibaba also set a new 5000m World Junior record of 14:39.94 when finishing third in this year’s Oslo’s Golden League.
A little earlier in the championships, exactly last 24 August, another teenager who goes by the name of Darrel Brown set a new World Junior record when clocking 10.01 to win his 100m quarter final.
Most impressively Brown won the silver medal the day after with a 10.08 seconds clocking in the final.
Brown’s international career started in Hungary, two years ago when he won the 100m gold at the second World Youth Championships. He went on to win gold at the World Junior Championships last year in Kingston and surprisingly missed the title in these championships by a mere hundredth of a second.
The new World Junior record of 10.01 set by Brown erased Dwain Chambers’ precedent mark of 10.06 from the history books. Incidentally, Brown also took Chambers’ record as the youngest ever 100m medallist in the World Championships. (Chambers won bronze in Seville 99 when aged 21).
At what to say about 18-year old Eliud Kipchoge’s performance of today when he deprived Hicham El Guerrouj – who is ten years older than him – of a historical 1500m / 5000m double.
When everybody was just about to celebrate El Guerrouj’s exceptional exploit, here comes the young Kenyan and his devastating finish. Kipchoge who also won this winter’s World Cross Country Championships Junior title, defeated El Guerrouj by three hundredths of a second.
Three tiny hundredths of a second, after almost 13 minutes of fine running, that will make a huge difference in Kipchoge’s future.
With Kipchoge, Dibaba and Brown already in the fast lane we can expect a bright future for these youngsters of the sport.