Maikel Vidal in the long jump at the IAAF World U18 Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Cuban masterclass highlights second evening of IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017

At this stage, it should come as no surprise to witness another Cuban masterclass in the horizontal jumps, but there was no denying that the feats of teenager long jumpers Maikel Y. Vidal and Lester A. Lescay proved the highlight on the second evening of action at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 on Thursday (13).

If there was a surprise, then it was the close nature of the contest in the boys’ long jump, with event favourite Maikel Y. Vidal taking a narrow victory in the end with a best of 7.88m, a world U18 lead.

Beforehand he stood head and shoulders over his rivals, and after that third-round effort he appeared to have the event at his mercy. Of the others, no one had surpassed 7.50m through the opening three rounds, his teammate Lester A. Lescay leading the chase with 7.49m.

With victory seemingly assured, Vidal appeared non-plussed after fouling his final three efforts, but in the final round he got a fright from Lescay, his 15-year-old teammate, who launched himself to a PB of 7.79m. That proved good enough for silver, but not enough to usurp Vidal. Romania’s Andreas Samuel Busca took third with a final-round effort of 7.47m.

“I’m proud for representing my country well,” said Vidal. “I intend to keep improving since I believe I have a long way to go.”

Northoff a class apart

Germany’s Timo Northoff claimed a convincing win in the boys’ shot put, the 17-year-old seizing command in the second round with a put of 20.50m. In truth, that was more than enough for gold, though with victory secured, the German unleashed another lifetime best in the final round, his mark of 20.72m a world U18 lead.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Northoff. “I’ve learnt a lot and my work will be to improve again in the next competition. I’m excited to bring the gold home.”

His closest threat – if we could call it that – came from Belarus’s Mikhail Samuseu, who threw 19.99m in the fifth round which secured him silver. Jonathan De Lacey of South Africa looked sure to challenge for the gold after his second-round effort of 19.93m, but that was a mark he couldn’t improve on in his subsequent attempts and he had to settle for bronze.

If there was a hard-luck story, then perhaps it was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Nermin Stitkovac, who had thrown 19.60m in qualifying but could manage no better than 19.06m in the final, which placed him fifth. Stitkovac appeared to unleash a 20-metre throw in the final round, which would have been good enough to move him into the medal positions, but it was ruled a foul.

Clinch claims decathlon glory

In the boys’ decathlon, Steven Fauvel Clinch ended the competition the same way he began: in the lead. The French athlete started day two with a victory in 13.94 in the 110m hurdles, just .10 short of his lifetime best. The discus proved disappointing, with his biggest throw of 34.14m well down on his best. However, he bounced back in the pole vault with a clearance of 4.50m, adding 20cm to his PB, which moved him back to the head of the standings.

In the javelin, he threw a decent 48.08m to maintain his lead over Olegs Kozjakovs, who applied some pressure ahead of the 1500m with a best of 55.76m.

The 1500m proved a dawdle for much of the race, the weary competitors not prepared to suffer unduly early on. However, when it came to the crunch, it was again Fauvel Clinch who led them home with an impressive sprint in 4:48.61.

That gave him a winning tally of 7559 and made him the second French boy to win a world U18 combined events title, following in the footsteps of 2009 winner Kevin Mayer, the Olympic silver medallist.

Kozjakovs closed out a good competition with a 5:12.82 to set a PB of 7377 and take silver, while Germany’s Leo Neugebauer took bronze over France’s Florian Fourre, 7204 to 7099.

One of the most dominant winners of the day came in the boys’ javelin, with China’s Zhekai Liu adding the world U18 title to the Asian Games U18 title he won earlier this year. Liu opened with an intimidating 73.32m effort to seize command in the first round, then improved to 77.54m in the second round, a lifetime best.  After that his best was a 76.96m throw  in the fifth round, and with victory secured he willingly fouled his final attempt after seeing it drop down near the 70-metre line.

His closest pursuer was South Africa’s Johannes Schlebusch, who opened with 72.31m then improved to 72.61m in the third round to sit in the silver medal position at halfway, and that was a place he consolidated after a 74.00m throw in the fifth round. After straining to find something special in the final round, he managed a lifetime best of 75.68m to secure silver.

China’s Qingshu Song hit the right notes in the final round after some earlier difficulties, throwing 73.64m to take the bronze medal.

Ay upsets Davis

There was a massive upset in the girls’ 100m with Jamaican favourite Kevona Davis unable to produce anything like her best form. Davis trailed from the blocks behind Poland’s Magdalena Stefanowicz and Turkey’s Mizgin Ay, and the 15-year-old visibly strained to close the advantage, but found herself pulling up before the line and clutching her hamstring shortly after, her time of 11.67 only good enough for third.

In the end it was Ay who got from A to B the fastest, the Turk crossing the line in 11.62 and handed the verdict over Stefanowicz, who clocked the same time in second, which was a PB.  

Elsewhere there were a clutch of semi-finals to decide on Thursday, with Jamaica’s Anthony Cox the fastest into the 400m final with his time of 46.86 in heat two. He will be closely challenged, however, by Brazil’s Bruno Benedito da Silva, who clocked a PB of 46.87 in the third heat.

Barboara Malikova was fastest in the girls’ 400m semi-finals, winning in a PB of 53.77 ahead of Kenya’s Mary Moraa, second in 53.88.

Ethiopia appears to hold all the aces in the boys’ 800m final, their two athletes – Melese Nberet and Tolesa Bodena – looking supreme when winning their 800m semi-finals earlier this evening.

Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF

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