Sweden's Angelica Bengtsson on the Pole Vault runway (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 15 August 2010 – Singapore

Athletics competition to begin Tuesday at Youth Olympic Games

SingaporeThe inaugural Youth Olympic Games began in Singapore on Saturday (14) evening with a lavish Opening Ceremony. The Singapore YOG, open to boys and girls born in 1993 or 1994, include many sports that have been part of the modern Olympic Games first held in 1896. Approximately 3200 athletes are expected to participate in 26 summer sports.

As part of this new unique Olympic initiative, a Culture and Education Programme will run alongside the sporting competition for the duration of the Games. This programme will center on five themes including Olympism, Well-Being and Healthy Lifestyle, and Social Responsibility.

The athletics competition begins on Tuesday with the first of three consecutive days of morning session qualifying rounds. All field events consist of a qualification and finals and all track events consist of round one and finals except for the Race walks and relays which will be straight finals.

Friday will be a day off. The finals begin on Saturday with both morning and evening sessions. Medal competition continues for the next two days.

While some events mirror those in the traditional Olympic Games and senior athletic championships, some will be unique to the YOG. Instead of an 800m and 1500m, there will be a 1000m race. The longest running distance will be at 3000m and the Steeplechase will be over 2000m. Race walks will be at 10,000m (boys) and 5000m (girls). There will be no multi-events. The final event on the timetable will be a Medley Relay consisting of stages of 100m, 200m, 300m and 400m.

Only boys and girls who run in this relay can compete in another event, so no athlete can win multiple individual medals.

Qualifying competitions to determine the 16 athletes for each YOG event was broken down into the five traditional Olympic Areas. Each of these five (Africa, Europe, Oceania, Americas and Asia) was entitled to one representative per event. However, in recognition of the proficiency that some Areas have for particular events the representation distribution has been weighted. A case in point is the boy's 100m where the 16 to qualify will be 1 – Africa, 4 – Europe, 1 – Oceania, 7 – Americas and 3 – Asia.

An additional 126 athletes are able to participate in the event of their choice, regardless of performance, through a universality place allocation process. In the girls 100m, for example, there are an additional 20 entries to the 16 qualifiers for a total of 36 starters.

Bishan Stadium will be the venue for athletics.  The stadium was constructed in 1998 and a combination of permanent and temporary seating will bring the capacity to 10,000. A warm-up facility is about a 10 minute walk from this stadium.

Bengtsson, Toledo and Gill the headliners

More than five hundred competitors are expected and one of the biggest stars could be Swedish Pole Vault sensation Angelica Bengtsson. As a 16-year-old at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships she took the gold medal by a massive 22 cm at 4.32m. Stepping up to the IAAF World Junior Championships at Moncton last month, Bengtsson prevailed again over girls as much as two years older than her. For good measure, she also set a World Youth Best Performance (the IAAF does not ratify World records for Youth competition) of 4.47m in June at the European Youth Championships.

Her male counterpart in setting a World Youth Best Performance in 2010 is also entered. Braian Toledo of Argentina threw the 700g Javelin an impressive 89.34m on 6 March. Last year he won the bronze medal at the IAAF World Youth Championships.

However, he might not even be the top YOG headliner in the boys throwing events. That could be shot-putter Jacko Gill of New Zealand who could also be the youngest gold medallist in athletics as he does not reach his 16th birthday until 20 December. In winning the Shot Put at the recent World Junior Championships he became the youngest gold medallist ever, surpassing another IAAF World Junior Champion and IAAF World Youth Champion who has gone on to have a rather stellar senior career, Usain Bolt.

Bolt is joined by Yelena Isinbayeva as one of two prominent athletic superstars to fill the role of ambassador for the Youth Olympic Games. When she was named, Isinbayeva said, "This is a very exciting opportunity for me to pursue whilst I take a break from competition. I am happy to play such an important role in getting young people active, and the Youth Olympic Games provides the perfect vehicle with which to inspire young people around the world to do incredible things through sport."

Isinbayeva and Bolt are also part of a select group of quadruple gold medallists who earned the honour at the IAAF World Youth Championships, IAAF World Junior Championships, IAAF World Championships and Olympic Games. (The others are Veronica Campbell-Brown and Valerie Vili.) It is yet to be determined, but history's first Golden Five international champion may indeed be among the victorious at these first Youth Olympic Games.

Marty Post for the IAAF