Dominant 400m hurdles victories by USA’s Norman Grimes and Sydney McLaughlin capped the penultimate day of the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 at Pascual Guerrero Stadium on Saturday (18), which once again played host to one of the largest crowds to ever witness these championships.
With a dozen titles up for grabs, a pair of championship records fell and five world youth leads were set.
Grimes’ win was arguably the highlight performance on the track.
Clearly ahead by the midway point, the 17-year-old confidently powered through the final bend and down the home straight en route to a 49.11 run, the second-fastest youth performance ever.
The lanky Texan was a massive 1.22 seconds clear of runner-up Ryusei Fujii of Japan, who likewise edged his team-mate Masaki Toyoda 50.33 to 50.53.
Grimes' victory followed that of McLaughlin, his much-heralded 15-year-old team-mate whose 55.94 performance chipped 0.02 from the championship mark set by their compatriot Ebony Collins 10 years ago.
McLaughlin crossed the line nearly a second ahead of Canada’s Xahria Santiago, who clocked a personal best of 56.79. McLaughin’s countrywoman Brandee Johnson took bronze in 57.47, which was also a personal best.
Tarbei triumphs in Kenyan 800m 1-2
Dominant victories came in contests sans barriers, too.
Willy Tarbei and Kipyegon Bett’s 1-2 finish in the boys’ 800m secured a Kenyan victory over the distance for the fifth time in the past six editions. The front-running Tarbei was rewarded with gold for his bold approach as he crossed the line in 1:45.58, 0.28 ahead of his team-mate.
The girls’ 1500m wasn’t decided until Ethiopia’s Bedatu Hirpa powered past Bahrain’s Dalila Abdulkadir Gosa in a thrilling last-gasp homestretch surge about 50 metres from the line.
Hirpa clocked a world-youth-leading 4:12.92 ahead of Gosa’s lifetime best of 4:13.35.
In the heptathlon, Geraldine Ruckstuhl of Switzerland rose from the pile of bodies that littered the track after the last heat of the 800m to learn she had just taken a hugely unexpected gold with a championship record.
Sixth after the first day, Ruckstuhl reached a personal best of 5.71m in the long jump, threw the javelin 52.87m and clocked 2:17.58 to tally 6037 points with the second-best ever result with the current set of implements.
“I don’t believe it,” she said after the 800m, wiping tears from her eyes. “Coming into this championship, third place was the best I could imagine. First: I can’t believe.”
Sarah Lagger, still just 15, finished second with 5992 points to capture Austria’s first ever medal at the World Youth Championships.
Alina Shukh of Ukraine, who holds the world youth best with her recent 6039 tally, had to settle for third with 5896.
Werner hits the heights
Swedish pole vaulter Elienor Werner set the tone for the evening.
With the gold medal secured at just 4.15m, the 17-year-old continued to clear the rising bar and delighted the crowd at the north end of the stadium with the best day of her young career.
Her score sheet remained perfect through to a career best of 4.22m and she improved further still to 4.26m with a dramatic third-attempt clearance.
A spirited competition in the boys’ high jump had the other end of the stadium in a frenzy, particularly the vociferous and passionate section of Italian supporters who watched Stefano Sottile equal his world-youth-leading mark of 2.20m to take the gold.
Sottile sailed clear on his first attempt before flying into the arms of his jubilant supporters.
The enthusiastic crowd helped push 15-year-old Dmytro Nikitin to a 2.18m clearance for silver and helped elevate USA’s Darius Carbin over 2.16m — a lifetime best by five centimetres — and to an unexpected bronze.
In the girls' hammer, world youth leader Sofiya Galkina took Russia’s first-ever gold in the event, but it didn’t come without some late drama.
The 17-year-old took command of the competition with a 67.82m throw in the third round and later survived some last-round jitters when Deniz Yaylaci of Turkey produced a throw that appeared nearly as far. At 67.01m it wasn’t, but it did move the Turk into second ahead of China's Shang Ningyu, who was third with 66.84m.
In the girls’ triple jump, Romania’s Georgiana Iuliana Anitei produced one of the more lopsided field event outcomes of these championships so far, dominating the competition from her opening-round leap of 13.36m. She improved to 13.49m with her final leap to equal the world youth lead.
Each of the Romanian’s four measured leaps bettered China’s Rui Zeng and Cuban Yanna Anay Armenteros who each reached 13.04m, the pair taking the silver and bronze medals respectively on the countback rules.
Visser dominates discus
Werner Visser, the discus world youth leader, took control of his event for good in round three with a 64.24m effort.
China’s Wang Yuhan was more than four metres in arrears in second place with a personal best of 60.33m.
The day kicked off with the race walk finals in the morning, Russia’s Sergey Shirobokov taking the boys’ 10,000m contest and China’s Me Zhenxia the girls’ 5000m event.
In the boys’ race, the 16-year-old Shirobkov powered away from long-time leader and eventual silver medallist Jun Zhang of China with about 700 metres to go to collect a clear victory in 42:24.41.
His victory marked the seventh time in the championships’ nine editions that a Russian claimed the boys' world youth title.
In the girls' contest, Ma, the Youth Olympic Games champion in the event, pulled away from a pack of five with some 300 metres remaining to win unpressed in 22:41.08.
She closed in impressive fashion, covering the final kilometre in 4:12.07, the fastest in the race.
Olga Eliseeva of Russia held on for second in 22:45.09 and was followed across the line by surprise bronze medallist Ayalnesh Dejene of Ethiopia, who clocked a lifetime best 22:48.25.
In the 200m semi-finals, 100m winners Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and Candace Hill kept their double dash title ambitions alive.
Japan’s Sani-Brown led all qualifiers with 20.62 while Hill (23.21) and her US team-mate Lauren Rain Williams (23.03) led the women’s semi-finals.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF