08 JUL 2011 Report Lille, France

Boys’ 110m Hurdles Final - first gold medal for South Africa

Andries Van Der Merwe celebrates winning the Boys' World Youth 110m Hurdles title (Getty Images)Andries Van Der Merwe celebrates winning the Boys' World Youth 110m Hurdles title (Getty Images) © Copyright

The fastest youth in the world this year, Andries Van der Merwe perfectly regrouped after a conservative showing in the early afternoon’s semi-final to grab South Africa’s first gold medal of the championships.


Van der Merwe had to settle for second in his semi-final behind the impressive Takumi Takahata of Japan whose 13.66 personal best had given him hopes for a medal. France’s Wilhem Belocian looked even more impressive in winning his second semi in exactly the same time but into a strong 2.1 head wind. He too was aiming for gold.


But Van der Merwe had other plans on his mind. Fastest out of the blocks he looked in control from the gun. Supported by the home crowd, Belocian also started well and ran level with the stronger built South African until the fourth hurdle. That is when Van der Merwe’s powerful strides did the desperately holding on to a speed he had never before reached.


Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Joshua Hawkins running on the outside lane 7 was regrouping and making ground on the Frenchman. He would not manage to overtake the South African but it was close, very close as only 3 hundredths of a second eventually separated gold from silver.


Van der Merwe clocked 13.41, the second fastest time of the year just a couple of hundredths off his own personal best raising his arm and fist as he crossed the line. Hawkins’ silver in a PB 13.44 took New Zealand up to fifth on the medal table, the best showing for his country in the history of the competition.


Belocian looked disappointed with his bronze medal but his 13.51 was still a personal best time and just 1 tenth clear of Jamaica’s Omar McLeod’s own personal best 13.61.


The most disappointed of all was Takahata in fifth who previously today had defeated the eventual gold medal winner…


"I' m so happy to win this final it was my objectif from the beginning of the competition," said the delighted winner who celebrated with the typical Bolt lightning sign. "I was not focused on any other athlete, I was concentrate on my objectif that was the last lane now i will take a rest and to concentrate on my next competition."


Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF