The IAAF World U20 Championships has already thrown up its fair share of surprises and on the fifth morning of action in Bydgoszcz on Saturday (23), that trend continued.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland claimed its first medal of the week as Callum Wilkinson earned gold the hard way – from the front – and when he crossed the line in a huge personal best of 40:41.62, no one seemed as shocked with the result as the athlete himself.
His winning time was the fastest in the world by an U20 athlete this year and carved almost a minute off his PB, moving him to number two on the all-time British senior list.
Wilkinson led home Ecuador’s Jhonatan Amores, who finished a close second in a PB of 40:43.33, and Turkey’s Salih Korkmaz, who was third in a national U20 record of 40:45.53.
Korkmaz cut out much of the early pace, taking the field through the first 1000m in a conservative 4:17.16. Only when Wilkinson hit the front in the fourth kilometre, however, did the pace ratchet up to a decent tempo, the Briton taking them through 5000m in 21:11.75.
Wilkinson steadily turned the screw on his competitors from the front over the latter half of the race, reeling off sub-four-minute kilometres until he had just two athletes for company, Amores and Korkmaz. His penultimate kilometre was covered in 3:53.56, his final one in a blazing 3:44.51, a turn of pace his two remaining rivals had no answer to.
“Every lap of the track made me more and more confident,” said Wilkinson, who covered the second half in 19:29.87. “I can’t believe I did it. I knew I could, but I can’t believe it. I’m just in shock. It’s everything I wanted this year.”
Chen the champion despite warmup fall
Chen Ting won China’s second gold medal of the championships in the women’s triple jump, the 18-year-old adding 12 centimetres to her PB in the second round of the final when soaring out to 13.85m, good enough for gold ahead of Greece’s Konstadina Romeou, whose best of 13.55m came in the opening round.
Chen made her intentions clear from the start, sweeping to the lead in the very first round with a jump of 13.67m, all that despite suffering a fall during warm-up which threatened her title chances. “I had some troubles,” she admitted afterwards, “but I managed to still get first. This is my first gold medal and it means a lot.”
Ting extended her advantage in the second round, leaping 13.85m, and from there, none of her rivals could mount a notable challenge. The closest was Romeou with her 13.55m in the opening round, but the Greek athlete fouled her next three attempts and had to make do with silver. That’s not to say she was upset, for Romeou was already celebrating her silver medal success before her fourth-round effort.
“I came here with the eighth best result and I ended with a silver,” she said. “I’m so happy I can’t even describe the feeling.”
Bronze went to Romania’s world U18 champion Georgiana-Iuliana Anitei, who had a best of 13.49m. USA’s Bria Matthews also had a best of 13.49m, but was relegated to fourth on countback.
Fentie turns up heat to take 5000m gold
The women’s 5000m final, in essence, boiled down to a 2000m race, one in which Ethiopia’s Kalkidan Fentie led her rivals a merry dance from the front, cranking up the pace with a variety of surges over the final five laps to claim gold in 15:29.64.
The field passed 3000m in a steady 9:34.03, with Kenya’s Emmaculate Chepkirui leading the way, but soon after Fentie surged to the front, forcing the first sub-three minute kilometre of the race, 2:57.68.
However, Chepkirui was in no mood for laying down and re-took the lead, passing 4000m in 12:31.71. With eight athletes still within striking distance, Fentie surged to the lead once again on the penultimate lap, cranking through the gears and opening up a lead which she refused to surrender.
After she reached the finish in 15:29.64, a personal best by almost a minute, Fentie showed few signs of fatigue, and even set off on another lap before being reminded by her team managers on the back straight that the race had indeed finished.
“The competition was very tough,” admitted Fentie, who is now setting her sights on success at senior level. “It’s great for our country to keep the flag flying high. My plan for the future is to become Olympic champion in Tokyo.”
Chepkirui held on strongly to take silver in a PB of 15:31.12, a few metres clear of Bahrain’s Bontu Rebitu, who took bronze in 15:31.93. Uganda’s Mercyline Chelangat came through strongly on the final lap to take fourth in 15:34.09, a lifetime best.
Brilliant Botswana sizzle in 4x400m heats
Elsewhere on Saturday morning, the 4x400m heats saw all the main contenders advance safely to Sunday’s final.
The men’s heats saw a performance worthy of the title itself from Botswana, whose quartet of Omphemetse Poo, Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda and Xholani Talane blitzed the field to win their heat in 3:03.75, moving them to second on the world U20 all-time list. Individual 400m stars Thebe and Sibanda were pivotal to their success, both clocking splits of 45.26.
Japan finished a distant second in 3:07.59 to advance to the final automatically along with Jamaica, while India and Trinidad and Tobago also advanced on time.
USA ran a much more composed race in the second heat, their modest winning time of 3:07.87 providing clear evidence that their quartet was saving its best effort for Sunday’s final. Germany finished second in 3:08.50 to also advance, while Italy took the final spot with 3:09.42 in third.
Jamaica took no chances on the women’s side, running their gold and bronze medallists from the individual 400m on Wednesday night, Tiffany James and Junelle Bromfeld, who helped them to the fastest time of the day when winning the second heat in 3:33.18, a world U20 lead.
That brought them home well clear of runners-up Poland and Italy, who dead-heated for second in 3:38.23. Bahrain crossed the line fourth but got disqualified for a breach of rule 170.20, failing to line up in the correct order as the incoming athlete was approaching.
USA dominated the first heat, their time of 3:34.64 bringing them home comfortably ahead of Ukraine (3:35.34) and Germany (3:35.47). Canada also secured non-automatic qualification for the final when finishing fourth in a time of 3:35.66, while Czech Republic was rewarded with a place the final after they placed fifth in 3:35.38, a national U20 record.
Qatar’s Mohamed Ibrahim Moaaz led the way in the men’s discus qualification, throwing a best of 62.79m in his opening effort to top group B and book his spot in the final. Group A was led by Germany’s Merten Howe with 62.16m. Shot put champion Konrad Bukowiecki left it late to put himself through, fouling two attempts before unleashing a throw of 60.31m to stay on course for another podium finish.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF