The form guide pointed to a Jamaican one-two in the 110m hurdles and that pre-championships premonition played out in the final at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018.
Damion Thomas crashed out at the semifinal stage in Bydgoszcz two years ago but he made amends not only in his final race of the season but also in his final race over the U20 99cm barriers. The gold medal was the crowning moment of a long competition season for the Jamaican which also included a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships where he was running for Louisiana State University.
Thomas and his teammate Orlando Bennett had already separated themselves from the field by the first hurdle which saw the demise of Spain’s Enrique Llopis but the outcome was decidedly more clear-cut than it was at the Jamaican U20 Championships in Kingston when just 0.01 separated the two protagonists.
On that day, Thomas equalled Wilhem Belocian's world U20 record with 12.99 but here on a decidedly cooler and cloudier evening in Tampere, a winning time of 13.14 sufficed for the title ahead of Bennett in 13.33.
"I can't explain how I feel, I came here to win and I'm feeling so blessed," said Thomas who won Jamaica’s first ever title in the 110m hurdles at the World U20 Championships. "It means a lot to me to share the podium with a teammate. I can't remember the race very well, just crossing the finish-line. I'm done with my season now so I'm just going to relax."
Bennett indeed made it a Jamaican one-two in the final. “I hope to become the Olympic champion one day. I’m just so happy to make my coach, my family and my country proud tonight,” he said, not lacking confidence in his abilities.
The world senior and Olympic gold medals are both Jamaican property with Omar McLeod winning back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. Bennett has already gone one step better than McLeod who didn’t even make the world U20 team in the 110m hurdles in 2012 - although he did run in that championships in the 4x400m relay.
Japan’s Shunsuke Izumiya wasn't ranked inside the top 10 on the 2018 world lists but he raised his game brilliantly, coming away with the bronze medal in a lifetime best of 13.38. Naturally the Olympic Games are not far away from his thoughts either.
“Before the race I had a feeling I could win a medal tonight," he said. "I was happy with the result as I stayed close to the gold and silver medallists. This race gives me a lot of confidence ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but there is a lot more work to do in the future."
Steven Mills for the IAAF