Iceland has never won a medal in the 14-year history of the IAAF World Youth Championships, nor a global title in the sport, but Anita Hinriksdottir is hoping to change those two statistics in the 800m this Sunday (14).
The 17-year-old qualified as the fastest runner from the first round in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Thursday morning with a dominant front-running display to win her heat in 2:04.79.
It was quicker than truly necessary as the third automatic qualifier from her heat was Bermuda’s Feheemah Scraders in 2:08:91, and the fastest of the other four heats was won in 2:07:27 but Hinriksdottir was pushed by Ethiopia’s Dureti Edao and decided not to provide any confidence boost to her potential rivals by showing any sign of weakness. It also ensured everyone knew she had come to Donetsk in the best of shape.
“It was very difficult because my competitor was so close to me,” conceded Hinriksdottir, being diplomatic about the manner in which Edao had dogged her steps.
Nevertheless, it was the display of someone who knows that she is the favourite and has the confidence to exert her presence.
She is the fastest girl over two laps of the track in Donetsk, and the second-fastest in world, only lagging behind the US phenomenon Mary Cain who is concentrating on the IAAF World Championships 1500m in Moscow next month. Hinriksdottir can boast of a best of 2:00.49, the Icelandic senior record despite her tender years.
After finishing fourth at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona last summer, Hinriksdottir is determined to go home this time with something to show for her long trip from one end of Europe to another.
“I don’t want to finish outside of the medals again,” she explained. “The Ethiopians (Kobeb Tesfaye and Dureti Edao) are strong and there’s the Australian girl (Georgia Wassall), all of us want to get to the final and do well.”
A semifinalist at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg back in March, she ran the latest of her five absolute national records when winning at the famous junior meeting in the German city of Mannheim last month.
“I want to set another personal best. It’s a very strong competition but hopefully I can win, I think it will take a personal record (to win).
“It would be very nice to get Iceland’s first medal and I think I can go sub-two minutes, but maybe not this year,” she added modestly.
Another chance will come next month at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, where she will rub shoulders with the likes of home favourite and defending World champion Mariya Savinova as probably the youngest competitor in her event.
Coached by Gunnar Paul Joakimsson, Hinriksdottir is also following in family tradition as her aunt, Martha Ernstodottir finished 45th in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Marathon.
“She inspired me to get into athletics and I’m proud of her,” said Hinriksdottir.
Presumably, Ernstodottir must be proud of her niece too, and will be even prouder if Hinriksdottir gets Iceland’s first athletics gold medal on a global stage, the best before being silver medals at the World Indoor Championships and Olympic Games.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF