Two 17 year old athletes will depart from Sherbrooke as the only double gold medallists of the championships.
On the track, Jason Richardson, from Texas, USA, accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning the 110m Hurdles and the 400m Hurdles and set two championships records in the process.
In the field, Cristine Spataru from Onesti, Romania totally overshadowed the Triple Jump final with the outstanding performance of 13.86m before adding the Long Jump gold to her tally. She, too, set two championships records.
Spataru is a tall and strong athlete whose natural jumping abilities may well derive from her father, a Cuban citizen she has never met in her still very short life.
Her speed on the runway, her precision in taking off and her perfectly balanced step hop and jump technique had no rivals when two days ago she defeated her nearest rival by no less than 89 centimetres. An abyss by triple jump standards.
“The Triple Jump is by far her best event,” commented her personal coach Lenuta Dragomir who was herself 6th in the 100m Hurdles at the 1986 World Junior Championships in Athens.
“She is also a very good hurdler as well as an excellent long jumper though.”
That she could master the sprint hurdle race we didn’t yet know but we surely didn’t miss out to notice that she was doing well in the Long Jump final of today.
While she had an extremely easy win in the Triple Jump with the only four jumps that she took being all well beyond the 13 metre line, this was not the case in the Long Jump.
“After her fourth attempt in the Triple Jump, we were certain to have won gold. So I told her to call it a day,” continued Dragomir. “We knew she would need all her strength for the Long Jump.”
And indeed the competition proved to be tough. Following her opening foul, Spataru took a deep breath, started her run towards the board and took off to land at a new personal best of 6.41m.
None of Spataru’s remaining efforts had the same sparkle with only her final jump being over 6 metres. Her second effort would suffice for gold but only just.
At her final effort, Czech Republic’s Denisa Scerbova managed a 6.40m jump to improve her personal best set in the qualifying round by nine centimetres but still one short of the gold medal.
Ukraine’s Ganna Demydova whose personal best of 6.44 remains the world youth best performance was well below par today and she even injured her knee in her fifth round effort.
“I am very happy,” says Spataru before her coach, and in this instance also her interpreter, takes over again. “We knew that the other girls in the Long Jump were very strong. But Cristine is tough you know. She has a lot of physical resources and she is even stronger mentally. When things become difficult, that’s when you see the real her.”
A proud coach, Dragomir explains that Spataru is with no doubt the best hope for Romanian athletics. A future guaranteed in the sport and despite her very young age, Spataru already has a relatively long history in IAAF World Championships.
Two years ago in Debrecen, the host of the 2nd IAAF Youth Championships, she finished fourth in the Long Jump with the same distance as the bronze medallist (6.03m). Still two years younger than the rest of her competitors, Spataru left Hungary with no medal around her neck, her second best jump being too short by 2 centimetres.
Last year in Kingston World Junior championships she was still two years younger than her competitors but this time she didn’t manage to qualify for the Long Jump final.
“Debrecen was a fantastic learning experience for her,” said Dragomir. “She got familiar with the championships and even if she lost bronze by such a short margin it didn’t matter.”
The past may no longer matter now that Spataru has confirmed her potential on the world scale, but the future certainly does for this beautiful young woman whose talent could give so much back to athletics.