Jonathan Ndiku, though running in a not-so-familiar race, James Kirani and Racheal Nachula brought much-needed class to the athletics competition in the Commonwealth Youth Games on Wednesday (15 Oct), winning their events in fluent style.
Ndiku out-classes the field
Ndiku, the World Junior 3000m Steeplechase champion, entered in the 1500 metres here since the former event is not part of the programme, went through the waiting game for one and a half laps and then decided things were too slow for him. The Kenyan took off to build up a 40-metre gap from the rest, all but maintained that leeway right into the last 200 metres before slowing down on the home straight and winning in a Games record time of 3:45.96.
Seventeen-year-old Ndiku, who won the steeplechase title at the Bydgoszcz World Juniors earlier this year, had plenty to spare in the end, waving to the sparse crowd to signal his victory around 40 metres from home, turning around and crossing himself before going across the line. Against such brilliant front-running the others could only watch in awe and hope for the best in the battle for the silver and bronze.
Alex Cherop of Uganda and Cylof Jonas Windy of South Africa were both credited with the same time of 3:48.41, behind Ndiku, with the Ugandan being adjudged the silver winner.
Kemoy Campbell, a most unfamiliar choice as the sole male representative from the land of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, came 10th in a field of 12 in 3:54.50. To those who were keenly looking forward to seeing some outstanding young sprinting talent from Jamaica, Campbell's solo presence at these Games must have come as a disappointment, but the middle distance runner had pointed out on arrival that the majority of the athletes back home were enjoying a break after ending their season.
Comfortable win for Kirani over 400m
The Caribbean sprinting presence was not completely forgotten as James Kirani, the 16-year-old 400-metre World Junior silver medalist from Grenada, won the one-lap event comfortably and on expected lines.
Coming into the home straight, Nigerian Elvis Ukale looked to have the edge, but the tall figure of Kirani quickly took command. His flailing arms and legs generating tremendous speed down the straight, Kirani was through to a 46.66 finish, a Games record, though a sub-46 that could have been expected from the most sensational Caribbean in the junior ranks was not forthcoming. He had timed a National junior record of 45.70 in taking the silver in Bydgoszcz.
Nachula upholds reputation
Like Ndiku and Kirani, Racheal Nachula had also come here with a reputation. A semi-finalist in the 400 metres at the Beijing Olympics (52.67), she had finished fourth in the last World Junior Championships (52.44) and had taken the bronze at the African Championships at the altitude of Addis Ababa, clocking a PB 51.39.
Thus she had the credentials to destroy the field here. And she did that in brilliant fashion, just as she had done in the heats the previous day. The 18-year-old Zambian was well into the lead before the 300-metre mark, chased hard by her twin sister, Rebecca, Canadian Shela Johnson and English girl Shelayna Oskan.
Racheal Nachula won in 52.97, a Games record.
In the battle for silver that took many turns behind the Zambian, Indian M. R. Poovamma, a finalist at the World Youth Championships in Ostrava last year, hauled herself back from sixth, into the home straight, to second just in time to beat the others with 55.17. Rebecca and Johnson were tied at 55.20, with the Zambian getting the bronze while Oskan (55.77) faded to fifth.
"I gave everything I had in those final 50 metres," said the Indian, relieved that she had at last given some substance to her undoubted talent that had been talked of in recent months.
Nidiwa holds off challenge
Form and reputation held true in most of the other events, too. Kenyan Stacy Ndiwa ran a calculated 1500 metres before winning in 4:20.16. The small-built Kenyan led the field much of the time, though she had to face a determined challenge in the last 200 metres from Canadian Anne Parry and Irishwoman Clara Mageean. It was only into the last 90 metres that the Canadian made her move, having kept herself in third place till then. For a moment, it looked as though the Kenyan could be beaten, but Nidiwa had kept something in reserve for a mild 'kick' with just about 30 metres left and that ensured her victory in a Games record. Parry and Mageean claimed silver and bronze.
Englishwoman Abigail Irozuru took the Long Jump gold with a below-par 5.92 metres. Indian G. M. Aishwarya, having jumped 5.75 in the second round, was injured on her right knee in the third and had to be carried off to the hospital. She finished fourth behind Hannah Lewis of Ireland (5.85) and Mariah Ririnui of New Zealand (5.82).
India pulled off a major upset by beating Australia in the women's 4x100 metres relay. The quartet of Nirupama Sundarraj. Bhagyashree Shirke, Shravani Nanda and Gayathri Govindaraj clocked 46.27 for a Games’ record while edging the Australians who had beaten the home team in the heats last night. England which could have been the favourite did not enter the relay.
Sri Lanka, splendidly anchored by the sprint champion, Shehan Ambipitiya, won the men's shorter relay in another Games record of 40.85 seconds, with Australia coming second.
By an IAAF Correspondent
400m: 1. James Kirani (Grn) 46.66 (GR), 2. Elvis Ukale (Nig) 47.16, 3. Jordan McGrath (Eng) 47.26.
1500m: 1. Jonathan Ndiku (Ken) 3:45.96 (GR), 2. Alex Cherop (Uga) 3:48.41, 3. Cylof Jonas (RSA) 3:48.41.
110m Hurdles: 1. Sam Baines (Aus) 13.77 (GR), 2. Edwin Fredericks (RSA) 13.99, 3. Jared Bezuidenhout (Aus) 14.08.
Pole Vault: 1. Blake Lucas (Aus) 5.25 (GR), 2. Cheyne Rahme (RSA) 5.20, 3. Edward Mourbey (NIR) 4.70.
Discus Throw: 1. Julian Wruck (Aus) 60.88 (GR), 2. Curtis Griffith-Parker (Eng) 55.35, 3. Arjun Kumar (Ind) 52.02
4 x 100 Relay: 1. Sri Lanka 40.85 (GR), 2. Australia 41.08, 3. Canada 41.31.
400m: 1. Racheal Nachula (Zam) 52.97 (GR), 2. M. R. Poovamma (Ind) 55.17, 3. Rebecca Nachula (Zam) 55.20.
1500m: 1. Stacy Ndiwa (Ken) 4:20.16 (GR), 2. Anne Parry (Can) 4:20.59, 3. Clara Mageean (Ire) 4:22.53.
High Jump: 1. Elizabeth Lamb (Nzl) 1.79, 2. Molly Grant (Aus) 1.74, 3. Norliyana Binti Kamaruddin (Mas) 1.71.
Long Jump: 1. Abigail Irozuru (Eng) 5.92, 2. Hannah Lewis (Ire) 5.85, 3. Mariah Ririnui (Nzl) 5.82.
Shot Put: 1. Julia Labonte (Can) 15.02, 2. Lolo Lamataimi (Aus) 14.73, 3. Margaret Satupai (Sam) 14.24.
Hammer throw: 1. Sophie Hitchon (Eng) 58.43 (GR), 2. Mariezett Badenhorst (RSA) 50.92, 3. Ashleigh Mumberson (Aus) 50.87.
4 x 100 relay: 1. India 46.27 (GR), 2. Australia 46.74, 3. Canada 46.83.