Though deciding medallists based on combined results makes for some head-scratching at the end of an event, the drama the format provides was evident on the fourth day of athletics at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games on Sunday (14). No more so than in the women’s long jump, where a single centimetre separated the three medallists after a bout of last-round drama.
Fourth after stage one, Belgium’s Maite Beernaert was out of contention as she failed to get past six metres with her opening three efforts. Then came a timely – and wind assisted – 6.31m (2.4m/s) to catapult her to the top of the standings. She was as stunned as her rivals.
“Now that I have the medal around my neck, I can be sure that I finished first,” said a giddy Beernaert. “Before, it was unbelievable. This is the best day of my life!”
Klaudia Endresz of Hungary also produced her best in the final round to wrestle silver from Austria’s Ingeborg Gruenwald, the first stage winner. The pair ended tied on a combined score of 12.31m, Endresz edging it with her superior second best jump. Gruenwald must have been wondering which god she had wronged: even her 6.20m best leap failed to qualify as a personal best due to the 2.8m/s tailwind. Still, she leaves Buenos Aires with a bronze.
The men’s high jump delivered an extended spectacle, as China’s Chen Long and Australia’s Oscar Miers both cleared a Youth Olympic record of 2.22m long after the track programme had concluded.
First stage winner Chen carried an eight-centimetre advantage over his Australian rival, but that fact didn’t diminish the competition a jot. Chen’s performance saw him secure the gold in style, while Miers’ endeavour meant he moved up from seventh to take silver.
“He pushed me to clear that height,” said Chen, who is coached by his father, a former pole vaulter. “2.22m? I am amazed.”
Bronze went to Ukraine’s Oleh Doroshchuk, who cleared 2.14m to carry his third-place finish from the first stage.
On the track, too, it was clear just how important stage one performances were in settling the podium. Although Luis Antonia Aviles Ferreiro (46.78) was caught on the line by Zambia’s Kennedy Luchembe (46.36) in the second stage of the men’s 400m, the Mexican’s dominant performance in Thursday’s rain meant he remained top in the combined results.
Silver went to Luchembe, the African youth champion, whose wide smile suggested he was happy with his week’s work. Bronze returned to the USA via Nicholas Ramey.
Double winners remove the doubt
Not that the abacus was in constant use.
Grace Stark was the first gold medallist of the day – and indeed the week – after speeding through to win the second stage of the women’s 100m hurdles in an eye-catching 12.83 (2.8m/s). Stark, who entered the race ranked first after 13.31 in the first stage, came under pressure from Jamaica’s Ackera Nugent through the third quarter but remained calm to pull away for the title.
Nugent survived an injury over the final barrier to finish second in 12.96, although that was only good enough for bronze, as Australia’s Sophie White stayed close enough to retain the silver medal position.
Keely Small was another double stage winner in the 800m to claim the gold. The composed Australian kicked off the final bend and cruised through the line in 2:04.76. Her combined winning margin was 2.8 seconds.
USA’s Athing Mu trailed through in second to claim silver. South Africa’s Prudence Sekgodiso was the third runner to cross the line but she was later disqualified for a lane infringement, meaning bronze went to Hirut Meshesha of Ethiopia.
Connor Bell backed up his Youth Olympic record throw from stage one (66.84m) with a 66.24m opening round effort in the concluding stage to secure discus gold. The New Zealander was simply a cut above: no other athlete surpassed 60 metres in either stage.
Puerto Rico’s Jorge Luis Contreras threw 59.07m to secure silver, while bronze went to Gracjan Kozak of Poland after a personal best of 59.52m.
It was much closer in the women's discus, but stage one winner Melany del Pilar Matheus Morejon was not to be caught after bagging another win. The Cuban improved on her best from Thursday, going out to 54.95m to secure gold ahead of authorised neutral athlete Violetta Ignatyeva. Turkey's Ozlem Becerek was fourth on the day, but her consistency across both series (51.90m and 51.96m) meant she did enough to hold off Alida van Daalen and take bronze.
Leni Freyja Wildgrube impressed as the gold medal winner in the pole vault. The German, who won the first stage in torrid conditions on Thursday, was a class apart in Sunday’s sunshine. Though she had some early failures, her winning mark of 4.17m was 20 centimetres better than silver medallist Krystsina Kantsavenka of Bulgaria. France’s Emma Brentel cleared 3.92m for bronze.
Girls’ 400m gold medallist Barbora Malikova was another double stage winning champion. The Czech sprinter showed no signs of fatigue at this advanced stage of the year (she won the European U18 title back in July), flowing through the home straight to win in 54.68.
There was no movement in the medal places behind her, as Germany's Marie Scheppan secured second and silver in 55.15, and Zambia's Niddy Mingilishi crossed third in 55.32 for bronze.
Thomas Byrne for the IAAF