In major championships 100m finals, the eyes may always be drawn towards the central lanes, but Indonesia’s Lalu Muhammad Zohri proved once again that it’s always unwise to discount those further afield.
In the 32-year-history of the IAAF World U20 Championships, the best performance by an Indonesian athlete was an eighth-place finish in the 100m heats at the inaugural edition in 1986, but that all changed here tonight.
On a mild, breezy evening in Tampere, the 18-year-old Zohri unleashed a searing finish to his race to snatch gold in 10.18 (1.2m/s) ahead of USA duo Anthony Schwartz (10.22) and Eric Harrison (10.22). South Africa’s Thembo Monareng finished fourth in 10.23, with Britain’s Dominic Ashwell powering to a PB on the inside in 10.25.
Sweden’s Henrik Larsson, who had set a national U20 record of 10.22 to win his semi-final, could finish only sixth in 10.28.
Zohri came into the event as a respected, but far from feared, entity.
He had become Asian U20 champion earlier this year and lowered his best to 10.25 on home soil in Jakarta. But after the semi-finals, few would confidently have predicted his win, Zohri finishing second to USA’s Anthony Schwartz in 10.24, 0.05 behind.
Early in the final, it appeared as if the race would boil down to a two-way tussle between the US sprinters, but maintaining his form brilliantly out in lane eight was Zohri.
The Indonesian hit the front at halfway and was drawing away at the line, which he crossed in 10.18 to seal a historic victory for his nation ahead of Schwartz and Harrison.
“I will party tonight!” said Zohri. “I'm very happy with my PB and national junior record. Now, I will prepare for the Asian Games next month. I'm so proud – this was an amazing experience and this is great for my career.”
Schwartz was far from disappointed with second.
“Even being in the final is a great blessing,” he said. “My training has been different this season – less strength. It’s great to have a teammate on the podium with me.”
Harrison was also content, if not quite ecstatic, with his bronze.
“The last metres were really tight and I'm never satisfied,” he said. “But I'm really excited as I ran a PB. It's been a great opportunity and experience for me, emotional and special.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF