An impressive array of the best young boys and girls track and field athletes from some 170 nations began qualifying rounds at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore on Tuesday (17). This is the first of three days of qualifying before an off day and then three days of medal round competition.
There will be 17 individual events for both boys and girls and entries were well populated with athletes near the top of the 2010 year to date performance lists. Of the 33 world leaders who could have been here, 22 are present. The girl's leader at both 100 and 200 metres is absent, but she could have only run one of those two events per YOG rules.
Most impressive is that the leading boy performer in every field event – High Jump, Pole Vault, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Shot Put, Discus Throw, Hammer Throw and Javelin Throw – is in Singapore. So is number one in the 10,000m Race Walk, 400m Hurdles and the 100, 400 and 1000 metres. The second ranked boy is on the entry list in the 110m Hurdles.
The girl's field events are almost as strong. The four jumps have the world leader, along with the Shot Put and Javelin throw, while there are number twos in the Discus and Hammer Throws. The 2010 youth leader is also in the 5000m Race Walk, 100 Hurdles and 1000 metres. Second ranked runners appear in the 400 metres and Steeplechase.
Africans lead the way in 3000 metres
East Africans have dominated distance running events at all levels of world championships and Olympic competitions for many years and the first races on the track indicate there will be more of the same at the Youth Olympic Games.
Gladys Chesire of Kenya blazed an opening kilometre of 3:01.9 in the Girl's 3000m that was even ahead of pace for the fastest time ever run in Singapore (9:15.15). With a big lead she eased off to 3:10 and 3:13 for the next 5 laps and crossed the finish in 9:25.44, equalling her PB. Next finisher, Moe Kyuma of Japan, was 10 seconds behind. The top eight runners all broke 10 minutes and will advance to the final.
The Boy's race also went out quickly with an opening 64 second lap. Zabulon Ndikumana of Burundi set the pace through the first two kilometres of 2:47 and 2:48. The final kilometre was significantly faster and the bell rang at 7:14 with several boys covering the final lap in under a minute.
It wound up an African top three sweep of Ferku Jedesa of Ethiopia (8:12.65), Abrar Osman of Eritrea (8:12.80) and Hicham Sigueni of Morocco (8:12.95). Seven of the top finishers were Africans.
Bengtsson safely into finals
The first attempt of pole vaulter Angelica Bengtsson, the Youth Best Performance record-holder (4.47m), was forgettable as she could not clear her opening height of 3.80m. However, she sailed over on her next attempt by a massive 25-30 cm and then added another clearance at 3.90m.
Father and coach, Glenn Bengtsson said before the competition, "It will be extremely difficult to win here because the competition is high. There are three other girls who could go over 4.40m, (Elizabeth) Parnov, (Natalia) Demedenko and (Ganna) Shelekh." His concern could be justified as they were three of the five to clear 3.90m.
In the other vertical jump qualifying, high jumper Viktor Chernysh of the Ukraine cleanly cleared all his heights, including a personal best 2.10m. Five other boys also attained that top height of the morning.
Alina Rotaru of Romania was another athlete who set a personal best to lead her qualifying. She long jumped 6.40m on her only fair jump, but it was good enough to separate her from the rest of the field by 36 cm.
Bleskina dominates high hurdles
Ekaterina Bleskina of Russia, the 100m Hurdles World Youth leader, looked like she could be unbeatable in the finals. She won her heat in 13.32 and no other girl in any of the three heats was with three-tenths of a second of that time.
In a departure from usual championships procedure all results from these three heats (as well as for all other sprints and hurdles) will be amalgamated and top eight times advance to an A final. The next eight go into a B final followed by C and D as necessary. No winner of any qualifying heat is guaranteed entry in the medal final.
Nicholas Hough of Australia was the fastest boy in the 110m Hurdles, 13.50sec, in the second heat. Yordan L. Ofarril of Cuba, the fastest boy in the field (13.26) also won his heat with a time fast enough to advance to the finals.
Favourites top Discus Throws
Arjun Kumar of India, the top boy's discus thrower of 2010 and Shanice Craft of Germany, number two among girls and the best present in Singapore, both topped the qualifying stage.
Kumar led at 63.90m, a personal best, just ahead of Jacques Du Plessis of South Africa (63.17); no other boy went beyond 59m.
Craft put all four of her throws – there are only four attempts in YOG competition – at least three metres farther than the next girl as she reached 54.10 with her best effort.
15-year-old fastest at 400 metres
Bukola Abogunloko of Nigeria, who celebrates her 16th birthday tomorrow, had the fastest 400 metres time of 53.06.
Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic had four of the five fastest boy's youth times at 400 metres coming into the YOG. He made it five of six with an imposing 46.82, the only boy under 47 seconds.
Marty Post for the IAAF