Athletics: Stardom awaits for Nanjing’s talented youngsters

The men’s athletics at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games provided an exciting chance to see the stars of tomorrow. After a series of high-flying performances across three days of finals, the newly-introduced 8x100m mixed team relay provided an exhilarating grandstand finish.

Bright start for Jamaican sprinters

Jamaica’s Martin Manley kicked off the men’s athletics finals on 23 August with gold in the 400m. Manley finished in a time of 46.31 seconds to see off Karabo Sibanda (BOT) and Henri Delauze (BAH).

The Jamaican runner is seen as a star in the making in the one-lap event and looks set to join a long list of emerging Jamaican talent on the track. His success in Nanjing completed a memorable double after he won 400m gold at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships.

“I’m happy to end my season with a bang,” said Manley. “What do I put my success down to? Training. I love training. I’m a hard-working athlete. Everything in athletics is hard, and training is the hardest part. Winning is the easy bit.”

Jamaica’s hot streak in the track events continued as Jaheel Hyde recorded a personal best in the 110m hurdles, clocking an impressive time of 12.96 seconds.

“It's a great feeling to be the best in the world in my age group,” Hyde said. “My family got me here with the sacrifices they made to get me to training and to the events. They had to get up very early to get me to training, but that’s what keeps me disciplined.”

Meanwhile, China’s Cheng Yulong triumphed in the discus, setting a new personal best of 64.14m.

After running towards his parents in the stands to celebrate, an emotional Cheng said he wanted his victory to inspire the remaining Chinese athletes.

In the high jump, Danil Lysenko (RUS) won gold after clearing 2.20 metres. Yuji Hiramatsu (JPN) and Shemaiah James (AUS) tied for silver, both achieving new personal bests of 2.14m.

“Today was rather difficult to jump, I made some mistakes but I had time to correct them,” Lysenko said. “Of course I’m absolutely delighted but I didn’t put in my best performance tonight.”

Finally, in the 100m final, Sydney Siame (ZAM) won gold in 10.56 seconds, a whisker ahead of Kenta Oshima (JPN) on 10.57 seconds and Trae Williams (AUS) on 10.60 seconds.

“It's been so long since Zambia won a medal in this event,” Siame said. “I'm very happy to win.”

Soet celebrates in style as Nanjing enjoys the Noah show 

The morning session on 24 August started with Anatoly Ryapolov (RUS) taking gold in the long jump. Ryapolov’s distance of 7.54m was enough to see him finish ahead of Obrien Wasome (JAM), who recorded a leap of 7.44m, and Zhong Peifeng (CHN) on 7.37m.

However, the performance of the day went to 1,500m runner Kwemoi Soet (KEN) who claimed gold in wonderful style, first by recording the fastest junior time of the year on 3:41.99 and then by celebrating in extravagant fashion with a series of karate kicks on the finishing line.

"I made an effort to end fast," he said. "It was a very good race. I feel a lot of love for China."

Later, despite dominating the field to win shot put gold with a personal best throw of 23.17m, Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki admitted he was still not entirely happy.

“I’m frustrated because I wanted to beat the Polish record of 23.23m,” he explained. “I was 6cm short, so I don't feel great. My main aim was to throw the record. The gold is a bonus, but I don’t feel satisfied.”

Having arrived at the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games after a string of successes, including first place in the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, Bukowiecki was considered by many to be the gold medal favourite. And he certainly lived up to his billing, recording a winning distance that was two metres and 17cm longer than that of silver medallist Andrei Rares Toader (ROU).

In the 10,000m race walk, meanwhile, Minoru Onogawa (JPN) recorded a winning time of 42:03.64.

“My high school teacher recommended that I compete in walking,” he said. “Three or four days per week I walk really fast and the other days I run. It’s not painful because I train every day. All I can say is that I am so happy. I trained a year for this gold medal.”

Elsewhere, in the men's 200m final, Noah Lyles (USA) won gold ahead of Baboloki Thebe (BOT) and Chun-Han Yang (TPE) with a time of 20.80 seconds.

“This is the USA coming back and taking over the sprints,” he said. “This is just the start of the Noah show.”

Finally, the two remaining medals of an enjoyable second evening of athletics finals went to Ukraine’s Hlib Piskunov, who won the hammer throw with a personal best of 82.65m, and Yomif Kejelcha Atomsa of Ethiopia, who won the 3,000m in 7:56.20, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo (8:06.05) and Kenya’s Moses Koech (8:06.33).

All-African podium rounds off individual finals

In the only men’s final on the morning of 25 August, Xu Zhihang (CHN) took the 400m hurdles gold much to the delight of the crowd packed inside the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.

Having produced the best performance of his budding career, Xu recorded a time of 50.61 seconds in the closest result of the track and field schedule.

Tunisia’s Mohamed Fares Jlassi crossed the line with exactly the same time but, after a nervous wait on the finishing line, the Chinese youngster was eventually declared the winner on a photo finish. France’s Victor Coroller completed the podium after finishing in 51.19 seconds.

Later, there was more glory for France as Lukas Moutarde secured first place in the javelin final with a personal best throw of 74.48m.

“To even be here in a final was already great for me,” he said. “So to get on the podium is just incredible.”

Alexandru Novac (ROU) won the silver with a throw of 73.98m while Mark Xaver Schmolcz (HUN) picked up the bronze with 72.40m.

In the pole vault, Spain’s Noel-Aman Del Cerro Vilalta took top spot by clearing 5.10m at the second attempt.

Vladimir Shcherbakov (RUS) started well, clearing every vault up to 5.05m on the first attempt, but had to settle for silver ahead of Muntadher Abdulwahid (IRQ), who reached the same height.

Elsewhere, only one jump was required for Miguel Van Assen (SUR) to take gold in the triple jump as he managed 16.15m on his first attempt. That leap put the competition out of reach for Italy’s Tobia Bocchi (16.01m) and Azerbaijan’s Nazim Babayev (15.96m).

In the 800m final, meanwhile, Myles Marshall (USA) finished in 1:49.14 to see of the challenge of Uganda’s Geofrey Balimumiti (1:49.37) and Ethiopia’s Bacha Morka Mulata (1:49.73).

“My plan was to get out of the mess and have my own little lane to run in,” said Marshall. “Getting overtaken by Balimumiti on the penultimate corner didn’t matter. In the last 200m of the race, I knew I was going to lay it down.”

Finally, in the last individual men’s final of the Games, Wogene Sebisibe Sidamo (ETH) took gold in the 2,000m steeplechase ahead of Amos Kirui (KEN) and Hicham Chemlal (MAR) to finish the night with an all-African podium.

Mixed relay’s cast of hundreds provide memorable finale

On 26 August, the track and field schedule at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games came to a close amid a frenzy of dropped batons and near collisions as 620 athletes competed in the newly-introduced 8x100m mixed team relay.

The event was eventually won by a team featuring a shot putter and a triple jumper as team 34, consisting of eight athletes of different nationalities who were previously unfamiliar with each other, raced to victory on Yanshan Road in 1:40.20.

Fortunately for German shot putter Merten Howe, there were a number of sprinters in his team, including men's 100m competitor Trae Williams (AUS).

“I ran third, and I ran hard,” Williams said. “I caught a few of the other countries.”

“I thought the race was a really good thing. It was almost an obstacle relay, a bit like hurdles. There were plenty of dropped batons but racing with all those athletes was a once in a lifetime experience.”

The other members of gold-winning team 34 were men's 1,500m runner Daou Bacar Aboubacar (COM), men's 400m hurdler Witthawat Thumcha (THA), women's 400m runner Maria Simancas (VEN), women's triple jumper Tatiana Blagoveshchenskaia (RUS), women's 800m runner Lakeisha Ashley Warner (IVB) and women's 200m runner Ioana Teodora Gheorghe (ROU).