Pune, IndiaIt is rare for someone to come up with a personal best on a last attempt and win a gold medal. Englishman Curtis Griffith-Parker did just that to wrest the shot put title from South African Stephan Brink on the opening day of athletics action in the Commonwealth Youth Games here today (Oct 14).
It was a profitable day for England as it claimed four of the eight titles decided on the first day in the three-day athletics championships of the Games that opened on Sunday.
Griffith-Parker, who had competed in the last World Junior Championships at Bydgoszcz, Poland, and whose best till this evening was an 18.43, recorded at Bedford last June, had not touched 18 this evening and was lying third going into the final round.
Brink, with a fourth-round throw of 18.41 and home favourite Jasdeep Singh, at 18.10, were ahead of the 18-year-old burly Englishman. Griffith-Parker putted 18.56 and he, and the rest of the field, knew that the gold was as good as won and lost.
Brink, who had an 18.66 in Pretoria this season, did not have his rhythm through the competition and managed only three valid throws, the last one, in response to Griffith-Parker's effort, measuring only 15.48.
Jasdeep Singh did better, with an 18.03 on his last attempt, but no one was going to spoil England's party. Three of the English athletes including Griffith-Parker bettered Games records. The existing shot put mark was that of 18.45 set by Indian Saurabh Vij in Bendigo, Australia, in 2004.
Games record for Thompson & Ambeypitiya
The effortless ease with which Shaunna Thompson won the women's 100 metres was complimented by pole vaulter Jade Ive who cleared a personal best 4.05 metres, and Peter Smith produced a fifth-round throw of 68.38 metres to edge Indian Chandrodaya Narayan (67.38) in men's hammer to the delight of the English camp.
Thompson first clocked a 11.58 to better the Games record of 12.03, set by Scot Gemma Ryde, and then blazed to a 11.46-second finish in the final that left Australians Eloise Graf and Lauren O'Sullivan fighting a different duel for the silver.
A semi-finalist in the 200 metres at this summer's World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Thompson's best to date for the short dash had been 11.64 she clocked at Birmingham last June. Today her joy knew no bounds as she jumped around after having annihilated the field. At 11.80 and 11.81, Graf and O'Sullivan were no threat to the 16-year-old English girl.
Sri Lankan Shehan Sadaruwan Ambeypitiya took the men's 100 metres gold, clocking a career-best 10.43 seconds that was also a Games record. A finalist at the Bydgoszcz World Juniors, Ambeypitiya had looked a strong contender here as he came through the first round this morning, clocking 10.66. If anything, he looked better in the semi-finals, clocking 10.48, the best in three heats.
The Sri Lankan, whose previous best of 10.51 had come in this year's Asian junior championships in Jakarta, had a fight on his hands though, in the final, against Englishman Henry Deji Tobais. The latter, however, could not build on his terrific start and settled for the fourth place.
The Sri Lankan, coming from behind past the 50-metre mark, put on a determined fight over the final stretch when Tobais was fast decelerating as even Suwaibou Sanneh (Gambia) and Jason Rogers (St Kitts and Nevis) were fast catching up with him, on the outside. Sanneh had a 10.51 while Rogers and Tobais were tied at 10.52.
First gold medal for hosts
Indian Dheeraj Mishra took the men's triple jump gold, just a centimetre separating him from England's Benjamin Williams, at 15.42. The Indian had opened with his eventual gold-winning distance while Benjamin jumped 15.41 in the fifth round. Favourite Boipelo Mothlahlego finished third with 15.20, recorded in the third round.
"I thought the title may slip away when William came so close," said the Indian, proud to be the host's first gold winner in athletics. The 18-year-old Indian has a best of 15.78 registered in Colombo while winning the South Asian junior title last year.
By an IAAF Correspondent
100m: 1. Shehan Ambepitiya (Sri) 10.43 (GR), 2. Suwaibou Sanneh (Gam) 10.51, 3. Jason Rogers (Skn) 10.52
Triple Jump: 1. Dheeraj Mishra (Ind) 15.42, 2. Benjamin Williams (Eng) 15.41, 3. Boipelo Mothlahlego (RSA) 15.20
Shot put: Curtis Griffith-Parker (Eng) 18.56 (GR), 2. Stephan Brink (RSA) 18.41, 3. Jasdeep Singh (Ind) 18.10
Hammer: 1. Peter Smith (Eng) 68.38, 2. Chandrodaya Narayan (Ind) 67.38, 3.Ejaz Ahmed (Ind) 64.97.
100m: 1. Shaunna Thompson (Eng) 11.45 (GR), 2. Eloise Graf (Aus) 11.80s, 3. Lauren O'Sullivan (Aus) 11.81
100m hurdles: 1. Kierre Beckles (Bar) 13.88, 2. Gayathri Govindaraj (Ind) 14.00, 3. Brianna Beahan (Aus) 14.08
Pole vault: 1. Jade Ive (Eng) 4.05 (GR), 2. Ariane Beaumont (Can) 3.90, 3. Abigail Haywood (Eng) 3.80
Javelin: 1. Bianca Maurer (Aus) 49.87, 2. Philippa Charlesworth (NZ) 46.14, 3. Poonam Rani (Ind) 44.25