An Australian has never won a combined events title in IAAF World U20 Championships history but with two athletes ranked inside the top three on the 2018 world U20 lists, expectations are high that Ashley Moloney or Gary Hassbroek could improve on the silver medals won by Jake Stein in 2012 and Cedric Dubler in 2014.
Moloney, who has been named in Australia’s 4x400m pool for the championships, began the first day of the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 with an excellent – and wind-legal – 10.51 in the 100m to break the world U20 decathlon best, but his campaign almost came to an inauspicious end in the long jump.
After two no-jumps – one of which looked in excess of his lifetime best of 7.54m – Moloney played it safe with his third jump, stuttering into the board and hitting the sand at 7.06m.
Moloney still led proceedings after two events from Hassbroek but he was usurped from the top of the leader board after the shot put by France’s Makenson Gletty who produced the three best marks of the contest: 15.27m, 15.21m and 16.03m. Gletty leads the standings with 2563 points from Switzerland’s Finley Gaio (2515) and Moloney (2454) but the latter has a strong second half to the first day and is expected to regain the lead.
Authorised neutral athlete Stepan Kekin, the world U20 leader, is seventh after three events with 2381 points.
Vidal squeezes through; Lescay and Dlodlo miss out
World U20 leader Maikel Vidal was in a similar predicament to Moloney in long jump qualifying but the Cuban mustered up a valid jump of 7.42m on his final effort which sufficed for a place in the final albeit by one centimetre.
But his 16-year-old teammate Lester Lescay, who is third on the 2018 world U20 list with 8.07m, missed out on a place on the final with a best of 7.36m. The qualifying rounds were led by Japan’s Yuki Hashioka – who is second on the world U20 list with 8.09m behind Vidal – with 7.92m.
There was a mild surprise in the 100m heats with Thando Dlodlo failing to progress but the 19-year-old, who hasn’t raced since a busy domestic campaign culminating in April, was off the pace sixth in the third heat in 10.70. The highlight of his domestic season was a 10.11 PB set in Pretoria at the South African Championships.
Aside from Dlodlo, all of the principal favourites progressed. The heats were led by Indonesia’s Lalu Muhammad Zohri and Jamaica’s Michael Stephens who were joint fastest with 10.30. US U20 champion and world U20 leader Anthony Schwartz was third in Stephens’ heat in 10.40.
Chespol and Manangoi advance through heats
Reigning champion Celliphine Chespol from Kenya had a benign start to her title defence as she sauntered through the first heat of the 3000m steeplechase in 9:45.60, winning by more than 10 seconds.
Chespol, the second fastest athlete of all time with 8:58.78, was the only entrant in the first heat with a lifetime best inside 10 minutes but the 19-year-old won't go entirely unchallenged in the final – and she has showed some vulnerability in championship races.
Even though she still won the title, Chespol miscounted the laps at the African Cross Country Championships in Chlef, Algeria in March and she was notably run down in the Commonwealth Games final by Jamaica's Aisha Praught.
Uganda's Peruth Chemutai, who finished seventh two years ago, closed with a final kilometre of 3:07 in the third heat in 9:34.34 to win by 16 seconds and Bahrain's Winfred Yavi eased away from reigning bronze medallist Agrie Belachaw from Ethiopia in the second heat, 9:52.23 to 9:59.95.
There was some gentle sparring in the home straight of the first 1500m heat featuring prospective champions Jakob Ingebrigtsen from Norway and world U18 champion George Manangoi. Not wanting to be passed, Ingebrigtsen ran hard through the line to assure himself the heat win in 3:51.34 ahead of Manangoi in 3:51.40 with a 54.23 last lap.
Norway's Jacob Ingebritsen made a point of keeping a psychological edge on world U18 champion George Manangoi in this morning's heats. Promises to be an amazing final#IAAFworlds pic.twitter.com/hdE5Av4oOO— IAAF (@iaaforg) July 10, 2018
Manangoi's teammate Justus Soget clipped heels with Ethiopia's Birhanu Sorsa on the top bend of the last lap but he safely progressed from the second heat in 3:44.71 with a 55.31 last lap. Pre-race favourite Samuel Tefera from Ethiopia, who hasn't finished lower than third on the IAAF Diamond League circuit this year – and finished two places ahead of Ingebrigtsen in the mile at the Prefontaine Classic – won the last heat in 3:44.48 with a 54.64 last lap.
The women’s 800m heats were decidedly less competitive with four athletes qualifying automatically from each heat. Opting to run their heats from the front, Japan’s Ayaka Kawata and Ayano Shiomi – who have both run inside 2:03 this season – were the fastest across the five heats with 2:05.08 and 2:05.13 respectively. Defending champion Sammy Watson of the USA expended as little energy as possible in finishing third in the first heat in 2:06.34.
Piperi produces big throw in shot put qualifying
World U20 leader Kyle Blignaut of South Africa won the prize for accuracy, hitting the automatic qualifying mark of 19.60m with his first throw in shot put qualifying – one of six automatic qualifiers across the two pools.
By contrast, 2015 world U18 champion Adrian Piperi from United States went all out with his first throw of 21.42m to lead qualifying by more than one metre from Greece’s Odysseas Mouzenidis with 20.36m.
Italians set the standard in javelin qualifying with Sara Zabarino and European U20 bronze medallist Carolina Visca recording 53.99m and 53.49m respectively. Ukraine’s Alina Shukh, who is contesting the heptathlon later this week, was the fifth best qualifier with 51.76m.
Steven Mills for the IAAF