The intense battle for global athletics supremacy is set to resume in Eugene, Oregon, on Tuesday, July 22 when the 15th staging of the IAAF World Junior Championships gets underway. Here’s a look at 10 events that should serve up some very intriguing interpersonal battles within the bigger national struggle for bragging rights.
- Women’s 100m
American phenom Kaylin Whitney, whose stunning US high school record time of 11.10 appears to be the fastest ever by a 16 year-old, and 18 year-old Brit Dina Asher-Smith (with a best of 11.14) between them own the top six fastest times in the world this year. Behind them sit a whole host of sprinters with personal bests in the 11.2x-11.3x range – including last year’s World Youth silver medalist Arianna Washington and Ecuadorian bronze medalist Angela Tenorio. The last two World Youth 200m winners – Sweden’s Irene Ekelund and Britain’s Desiree Henry – will also face the starter. This final should be a real barn burner.
- Men’s 100m
The 100m final in Eugene should have a now familiar USA versus Jamaica feel to it. This time around, however, the clear favorite out of the lot should be an American – world junior record holder Trayvon Bromell. Jamaica’s heavy medal hopes will likely rest on the shoulders of 2014 CARIFTA champion Jevaughn Minzie and national junior trials winner Michael O’Hara, both of whom have dipped below 10.20 seconds already this year. However, to my mind, the biggest threat to Bromell could well come from Jamaica-based Anguillan Zharnel Hughes, who ran 10.12 to beat Minzie (10.16) at ISSA Boys & Girls Athletics Championships way back in March. A number of other good sprinters from the Caribbean – including the likes of Trinidadian Jonathan Farinha and the raw Barbadian Levi Cadogan – could also be in the medal mix. If Yoshihide Kiryu can reproduce the times he’s consistently recorded in Japan in Eugene, he could also have a big impact. So, too, could last year’s surprise World Youth champ Youxue Mo.
- Men’s 200m
American Trentavis Friday, who tragically false-started out of the 100m final at US junior trials, set tongues wagging with a wind-aided 20.04 second clocking later in the same meet to install himself as co-favorite – alongside Zharnel Hughes – for the half-lap gold. Assuming he does go for the double, as the provisional IAAF entry list suggests he will, the silky smooth Hughes could again be the man to spoil the local party. His 20.32 second effort in the semis at Boys & Girls Champs was the personification of poetry in motion. The Jamaican duo of Minzie and reigning World Youth 200m champ O’Hara, who’ve registered respective personal bests of 20.37 and 20.50 this year, should again be right there or thereabouts. So, too, should Friday’s teammate Kendal Williams, Japan’s Yuki Koike, last year’s World Youth second-placer Vitor Hugo dos Santos, and a slew of other solid Caribbean sprinters.
- Women’s 800m
Cuba’s Sahily Diago has seemingly come out of nowhere to install herself as the firm favorite for gold in Eugene. In the absence of Britain’s Jessica Judd, who’s opted to compete at the Commonwealth Games instead, her eye-catching personal best of 1:57.74 means that she’ll enter competition as the fastest in the field by over 2.5 seconds. Surely she’ll win gold by a city block or more, right? Surely this event doesn’t deserve to be on this list, right? In the immortal words of Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friend!” Why? Because of the likely presence of Iceland’s reigning World Youth champ Anita Hinriksdottir. If Hinriksdottir is at her fighting fit best, Diago will be forced to earn every ounce of the gold medal that awaits the winner at race’s end. I’m also very interested to see how Ethiopian Zeyituna Mohammed’s 2:01.55 at altitude translates at sea level on one of the world’s fastest tracks.
- Women’s 3,000m
Since the inception of the World Junior Championships, this event has always pitted Kenya against Ethiopia in a tense battle for gold, silver, and bronze. You can expect more of the same in 2014. Current Ethiopian world leader Senbere Teferi, who pocketed World Junior bronze in the 1,500m two years ago, is expected to lock horns with reigning World Youth 3,000m champ Lilian Rengeruk in another exciting battle for national supremacy. However, it’s the presence of American middle distance prodigy Mary Cain which probably makes the event as intriguing a prospect as it’s ever been. Cain’s 3,000m times don’t quite match up to the others, but she’s a proven championship competitor who’ll have tremendous crowd support behind her. She also has a vicious enough kick to do some damage off a slow, championship-type race pace.
- Men’s 110m Hurdles
Wilhem Belocian versus Tyler Mason was one of the most captivating contests at this year’s edition of the CARIFTA Games in Fort-de-France, Martinique. In the end, the Frenchman Belocian (representing his native Guadeloupe) just managed to hold off the Jamaican as both youngsters recorded exceptional early season marks of 13.23 and 13.25 seconds respectively. In the almost three months since, Belocian has gone on to shave his personal best and world-leading time down to 13.15 seconds. Meanwhile, Mason has raced very sparingly. In that time, we’ve also seen the emergence of a new gold medal threat – in the form of Britain’s David Omoregie, who’s gone as fast as 13.17 seconds. With all three seemingly in shape to run fast on a notoriously fast track, Wayne Davis II’s existing world junior record might be just days away from a date with the guillotine.
- Women’s Triple Jump
Spain (and the rest of the world) fell in love with then 16 year-old Ana Peleteiro when she won the host nation’s lone medal in Barcelona two years ago. Since hitting those euphoric highs, things have been less than perfect for the young starlet. However, she seems to be rounding back into her best form at just the right time to mount a solid title defense in Eugene. She’s the current world leader with a 14.07-metre effort from early June, but the chasing pack – led by China’s Rong Wang – isn’t likely to just let her hop, skip, and jump away with the gold. Two Romanians – reigning World Youth triple and long jump champ Florentina Marincu and Elena Panturoiu – could also potentially upset the apple cart. So, too, could Cuba’s Liadagmis Povea.
- Women’s Shot Put
“Heir apparent to Valerie Adams” (I’m sure I saw that somewhere) is among the superlatives that have been tossed around in reference to Turkey’s rising shot put star Emel Dereli over the last few years. The 18 year-old shot to prominence when she overpowered the field to win gold at World Youths last year with a massive championship record throw of 20.14 metres, which was more than 1.5 metres better than silver medalist Alena Bugakova. However, she’s currently playing second fiddle to 2011 World Youth gold medalist Tianqian Guo (18.08 metres) on the 2014 world list. I can hardly find the words to describe how much I’m looking forward to see how this titanic clash plays out. Bugakova, American champ Raven Saunders, and Cuban number one Saily Viart should also want to have a say.
- Women’s Heptathlon
If new British hep sensation Morgan Lake is to be the champ, she’ll have to beat the defending champ Yorgelis Rodriguez. The Cuban is the current world leader with a just over 6,200 point total that was compiled at a meet in February. The young Brit will also have to find a way to get the better of Dutchwoman Nadine Visser, who’s currently second on the yearly list. It’s just too bad that rising American heptathlon star Kendell Williams will be focusing exclusively on the 100m hurdles. Then again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing – unless you’re current sprint hurdles world record holder Aliuska Lopez.
- Men’s 4x100m Relay
This one appears to be a three-horse race between the three teams which finished 1-2-3 at the last World Junior Championships: the United States, Jamaica, and Japan (in that order). IMHO, the apparent exclusion of Trentavis Friday from America’s relay pool moves Jamaica into the co-gold medal favorite slot with the hosts. If they get the stick around efficiently, a quartet of Raheem Chambers, Jevaughn Minzie, Michael O’Hara, and Waseem Williams should definitely reset the existing Jamaican national junior mark of 38.97 seconds, which was set in Barcelona just two years ago. They might even have a shot at the world junior record. The US, likewise, should be comfortably under 39 seconds. Meanwhile, the “stick mastery” of the Japanese could see them pushing the expected top two teams all the way to the line. Then again, sprint relays are always such a crapshoot that Zimbabwe might ultimately romp to victory in a brand spanking new national junior record time of 42 seconds flat.
Keep up with all the exciting action
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Go Team Jamaica!