Uganda’s distance runners laid down a strong marker on the opening day of athletics at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games on Thursday (11), as rainy conditions didn’t dampen the fierce competition in Buenos Aires’ Youth Olympic Park.
Distance medallists in Argentina will be decided based on placings over two stages, with 1500m, 3000m and 2000m steeplechase athletes all entered for the cross country later in the programme.
In the women’s 3000m, Sarah Chelangat won with the sort of strength needed to prosper away from the track. The Ugandan sat happily in the lead group until 1800 metres, when she eased to the front. As Kenya’s Mercy Chepkorir and Ethiopia’s Abersh Belay sparred for second behind, Chelangat remained unflustered, sprinting from the pair with 200 metres to go to win in a personal best 9:11.63. Chepkorir outdueled Belay to cross in second.
It was a similar story in the men’s event, as Oscar Chelimo showed brilliant resilience to hold off Ethiopia’s Berihu Teklehaimanot and Kenya’s Jackson Muema for another Ugandan win. The three moved to the front with 600 metres to go after reeling in Tanzania’s fast-starting Francis Damasi. Chelimo’s lead was marginal as the trio hit the bell, but he repelled late surges to cross first in 8:08.20.
A good win for both Ugandans, but they count for nothing until Monday’s off-road decider.
It is similarly finely-poised in the women’s discus which, like all throwing events, will be decided by combined marks across two stages. Cuba’s Melany del Pilar Matheus Morejon was the winner in the first courtesy of a best throw of 53.70m. Her advantage over Russia’s Violetta Ignatyeva is just 23cm; Tukey’s Ozlem Becerek (51.90m) and China’s Quantong Liu (50.30m) were also over the 50-metre mark, making it tight at the top ahead of the second stage.
It's not quite as tight in the men's competition, with New Zealand's Connor Bell finding 66.84m with his third attempt to lead by over nine metres ahead of Brazil's Vitor Gabriel Motin, in second.
Drama in the walks as jumpers battle conditions
The session began with stage one of the men’s 5000m race walk – like the middle distance and sprint races, results in walks will be combined across two stages to decide the medallists. In this opener, Ecuador’s Oscar Patin surged ahead of China’s Xin Wang on halfway, with Mexican Cesar Cordoba Fernandez taking up the chase. He moved to the lead with 600 metres to go, kicking hard to cross the line first in 20:09.90.
The drama didn’t stop there. Fernandez was given a 30-second penalty for loss of contact, dropping him to fifth and handing the win to Patin, in 20:13.69. Suraj Panwar, of India, crossed in third and therefore took second, comfortably ahead of the fading Wang, who nonetheless earned third overall.
The women’s pole vault proved to be a war of attrition, the contest extending close to three hours in worsening conditions. Leni Wildgrube, of Germany, used her efforts wisely, clearing first time at 3.95m after passing the previous height. France’s Emma Brentel was five centimetres behind for second, with Estonian Marleen Muella a further five centimetres back in third.
Long Chen, of China, was impressive in the men’s high jump, despite worsening conditions. Jumping alone, he cleared 2.13m at the third attempt for a notable first stage win. Finland’s Arttu Mattila and Ukraine’s Oleh Doroshchuk both went over 2.09m, with Mattila’s first time make enough to give him the edge at the half way stage. Six behind cleared 2.05m, queuing up should any of the leaders falter later this week.
Austria's Ingeborg Gruenwald has a narrow lead after stage one of the women's long jump. She went out to 6.11m with her third jump for a narrow advantage over Swiss jumper Emma Piffaretti, who recorded 6.06m with her single legal jump.
Hurdles and mid-distance contests poised after opening stages
A personal best 13.31 from Grace Stark saw the American win her 100m hurdles heat and also lead overall after the first stage. Australia’s Sophia White, fastest coming into the Games, wasn’t far behind Stark, claiming second in 13.39 to go into stage two as the second fastest overall. Heat 2 winner Ackera Nugent, of Jamaica, was the only athlete to break 13.5, running 13.45 to leave her well in contention.
The fastest time of the women’s 800m heats came out of the final race, as Australia’s Keely Small front-ran her way to win in 2:05.68. Next fastest was Germany’s Sophia Volkmer, who held form to move past Kenya’s Angela Munguti in the final strides to win the opening heat in 2:06.92. The second heat was won by Ethiopia’s Hirut Meshesha Mero in 2:08.35 – her PB of 2:01.16 set this year suggests she will challenge in the second stage.
Barbora Malikova was fastest across the four 400m heats. The Czech, entering as the second-fastest athlete, recorded 54.18 to win the first and top the standings after the first stage. Marie Scheppan was the only other athlete under 55-second, recording 54.91 to enter the deciding stage in second.
On the men’s side, Mexico’s Luis Antonio Aviles Ferreiro – ranked the quickest coming into the Games with a PB of 46.04 – stormed away to win heat 2 in 47.45 – more than two seconds ahead of Australia’s Keegan Bell. It leaves the Mexican in pole position going into the deciding second stage.
Thomas Byrne for the IAAF