A World champion stands out in any competition. If yesterday (Oct 15) it was Jonathan Ndiku in the men's 1500m, it was the turn of another Kenyan, Mercy Cherono, yesterday (Oct 16) to put on a commanding show as the athletics competitions at the third Commonwealth Youth Games came to a conclusion here.
2008 World Junior and 2007 World Youth 3000m champion, Cherono did not a challenge here in the women's 3000 metres. In a field of 18, with none to push her, the Kenyan had to set her own pace. A fast first kilometre, in 2:50.96 left her alone in front. The pace was bound to slacken and the next 1000 metres was gone through in just a shade under 3:07, but it became very clear where the gold was headed. On her way to yet another title in her impressive career so far, Cherono lapped a few runners twice as she timed 9:06.01, a Games record. The previous record was 9:42.95 by Australian Madeline Heiner in 2004.
A sub-9 would have been too much to ask for in the given conditions, especially with the lack of opposition that the Kenyan had to face. That second-placed Ugandan Doreen Chesang finished in 9:35.71 should also help put the race into some perspective.
Sri Lankan Shehan Abipitiyage and Englishwoman Shaunna Thompson completed sprint doubles without much ado. Abipitiyage had a slightly tougher time than Thompson since he was marginally behind Australian Ray Williams, coming off the bend, in the men's 200 metres.
Indian Amiya Kumar Mallick also put up a tremendous challenge, though neither he nor Williams had the kind of finish that the Sri Lankan could produce. Over the final 30 metres, Abipitiyage was the master and he won in 21.27sec to add to his 100 metres gold. Williams was three-hundredth of a second behind for the silver while Mallick was a further three-hundredth second down for the bronze.
Thompson's led comfortably into the straight in the women's 200 metres, with her closest challenger, Zambian Racheal Nachula, the 400 winner, around three strides behind. Nachula made a determined effort through the last 50 metres but the gap proved too much.
Thompson's second gold came in a Games record 23.42 sec, with Nachula taking the silver in 23.86 and Australian Lauren O'Sullivan the bronze in 24.14. The Englishwoman had earlier won the 100 metres also in a Games record, 11.46 sec.
Not all the Kenyans had things panning out their way. Japheth Korir and Paul Koech found out the hard way that sudden spurts and team tactics may not necessarily succeed in a distance event if the opponents have also come well prepared.
Three spurts of pace by Korir and Koech by the 3400-metre mark did shake off the majority of the runners in a 20-man 5000-metre field, but not a pair of Ugandans.
Kibet Moses, the better known of the two Ugandans, won in the end, clocking 14:10.86 after he overtook Korir around 50 metres from the finish. The Kenyan had done much of the front-running, especially during the last 2000 metres. The second Ugandan, Dickson Huru claimed the silver, also overhauling Korir just before the finish, with the other Kenyan, Paul Koech coming fourth.
South Africans Cylof Jonas and Caster Semenya claimed the 800m titles against modest opposition. Jonas kicked from 130 metres out to beat a pair of Kenyans and Botswana's Daniel Lagamang who had threatened to take command. Semenya had a more straightforward victory, leading all the way.
Flood of victories for Indian hosts
The Indians, with just two gold medals till the final day, struck it rich, collecting four more including both the 4x400m relays.
Javelin thrower Nandkrishan Tripathi nailed the day's first gold for the hosts with a second-round throw of 71.52 that was a Games record and a personal best. Another Indian, Rohit Kumar won the silver (67.60) ahead of Australian Luke Bisset (65.64) exceeding Chief Coach Suresh Babu's expectations.
A gold-silver haul, this one more on the expected lines, by Indians was the feature of the women's Triple Jump. Shradha Ghule jumped her personal best to 13.11 metres and Gayathri Gvindharaj, the 100m Hurdles silver winner, added another silver to her collection with a leap of 12.89m to assert the home team's dominance in this event.
The sole foreign challenge for the Indians came from Australian Ainsley Ackerman, who could have been expected to do much better than the 12.72 she did for the bronze.
It was a more or less a foregone conclusion that the Indian women's relay team would win the 4x400 metres. What was rather unexpected was the victory of the men's team too. A superb anchor leg by Praveen Kumar, against South African Wayne Voight and Kiwi Mathew Robinson did the trick for the Indians who were preserved for the relay alone, skipping the individual 400 metres. The other members of the Indian team were Jithin Paul, Dharambir and Inderjeet Singh. They clocked Games record 3:13.32.
The Indian women, anchored by 400m individual silver winner M. R. Poovamma, clocked another Games’ record of 3:42.02. Canada came more than three seconds behind for the silver.
By an IAAF Correspondent
200m: 1. Shehan Abeypitiyage (Sri) 21.27, 2. Ray Williams (Aus) 21.30, 3. Amiya Kumar Mallick (Ind) 21.33.
800m: 1. Cylof Jonas (RSA) 1:50.72, 2. Daniel Lagamang (Bot) 1:51.28, 3. David Mutinda (Ken) 1:52.22.
5000m: 1. Moses Kibet (Uga) 14:10.86, 2. Dickson Huru (Uga) 14:11.06, 3. Japhet Korir (Ken) 14:11.39.
High Jump: 1. Wayne Voight (RSA) 2.11, 2. Nikhil Chittarasu (Ind) 2.09, 3. Derek Drouin (Can) 2.09.
Long Jump: 1.Stefan Brits (RSA) 7.38, 2. Rayan Rositto Andrews (Ind) 7.24, 3. Azarudeen Buhari (Ind) 7.14.
Javelin Throw: 1. Nandkrishan Tripathi (Ind) 71.52 (GR), 2. Rohit Kumar (Ind) 67.60, 3. Luke Bissett (Aus) 65.64.
4x400 relay: 1. India 3:13.32 (GR), 2. South Africa 3:14.01, 3. New Zealand 3:14.26.
200: 1. Shaunna Thompson (Eng) 23.42 (GR), Racheal Nachula (Zam) 23.86, 3. Lauren O'Sullivan (Aus) 24.14.
800: 1. Caster Semenya (RSA) 2:04.23 (GR), 2. Rachel Stringer (Eng) 2:05.71, 3. Sharp Lynsey (Sco) 2:06.77.
3000m: 1. Mercy Cherono (Ken) 9:06.01 (GR), 2. Doreen Chesano (Uga) 9:35.71, 3. Mary Xwaymay (Tan) 9:36.63.
Triple Jump: 1. Shradha Ghule (Ind) 13.11 (GR), 2. Gayathri Govindharaj (Ind) 12.89, 3. Ainsley Ackerman (Aus) 12.72.
Discus Throw: 1. Lolo Lamataimi (Aus) 50.49 (GR), 2. Margaret Satupai (Sam) 48.43, 3. Shaunagh Brown (Eng) 42.96.
4x400 relay: 1. India 3:42.02 (GR), 2. Canada 3:45.46, 3. Australia 3:46.10.