Naohiro Shinada of Japan wins the Long Jump final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Naohiro Shinada brings first ever Youth gold to Japan

After just three days of competition here in Sherbrooke, a total of 23 countries are already listed in the medal table.

With 28 finals still to be contested between today and tomorrow it is very likely that the record number of 30 countries featured in the medal table – shared by both editions of Bydgoszcz and Debrecen – will be broken. The ever growing universality of the sport couldn’t be represented by a better statistic.

Talking about gold now, Sherbrooke has marked the ascendancy of four new countries to the highest step of the podium, their national anthem being played for the first time in the history of the IAAF World Youth Championships.

After the opening victory of Silam Hilali of Morocco winning the 3000m on day one for what was her country’s first gold of the championships, Romania, Uruguay and Japan claimed this honour yesterday.

Cristina Spataru established a new world youth best to win the triple jump, Andres Silva improved on the world best score in the octathlon and finally when the evening was already well underway, Naohiro Shinada clinched the Long Jump title.

“This gold medal means a lot to me. I am very proud and happy. This is just like winning the Olympics for me,” said Shinada with the help of a local translator.

The Sapporo born young man, whose parents were both decent 100 metre runners, admitted his main goal coming into Sherbrooke was “to have a good time and enjoy myself.”

He certainly did give the spectators of the men’s Long Jump a very good time, with arguably the best competition of his still very young athletics career.

17-year old Shinada had a brilliant series of five jumps over 7.30 metres and a best jump of 7.61 metres on his final effort but that doesn’t mean he had it easy.

Leading after a 7.35m opening jump in a contest which was constantly disturbed by the very strong head wind, Shinada saw his lead taken away from him by France’s Yves Renaud who leapt to 7.44m on his fourth attempt.

Shinada wasn’t to wait long to jump back into the lead as, jumping straight after the Frenchman, he landed at the same exact distance of 7.44m. The lead was his – thanks to a best second jump – and was never to be stolen again.

“No, I didn’t panic. It didn’t really make me nervous that the French had such a good jump. It actually stimulated me to jump even further. During the qualification round, we got to know each other a bit and it was a pleasure that it was him who was threatening my win,” said Shinada.

With none of the athletes improving on their best result with their last effort, Shinada certainly didn’t need to prove anything but such is the pride of the Japanese that despite a 2.0 metre head wind, he managed to put together the best jump of the day, measured at 7.61m.

Shinada will have just one day to celebrate his gold medal performance as he prepares to contest the 300 metres leg of the medley relay on Sunday.

Very charming and understandably very happy, Shinada did try to speak English to the courageous journalists who had braved the windy conditions and the cold temperatures of the night.

“Good morning. Okay.”

These, Shinada conceded, were  his only English words!