The 16th staging of the rebranded IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Athletics is officially in the books. Team Jamaica, once again, produced a creditable showing. The total of eight medals won (two gold, three silver, and three bronze) equalled our third-best ever output at a staging of these championships. Here’s a quick look back at some of the happenings that had me smiling, frowning, and cussing during the six days of scintillating action.
Tiffany James’ gold medal-winning effort in the 400 metres was the archetypal display of dogged determination. It was a joy to see her produce a career-best performance on what, to date, was the biggest stage of her career. Junelle Bromfield’s bronze medal was icing on the cake.
Jaheel Hyde repeating as 400-metre hurdles champion was widely expected heading into the event. However, many a red-hot favourite has previously stumbled at the final hurdle. The future Olympian made no such mistake, cruising through to a facile victory.
Rushelle Burton delivered arguably the best Jamaican performance of the meet to snatch silver in one of the highest quality sprint hurdles races ever run. It was really satisfying to see this extremely talented, but injury-plagued athlete signal her return to top form by smashing Daeshon Gordon’s previous national junior record (12.97 seconds).
Christopher Taylor’s atypically meek surrender in the semifinals of the 400-metre event confirmed fears that the lionhearted World Youth one-lap champion had been burdened with too heavy a workload throughout the season. It’s a tremendous testament to his determination that he was able to rebound with a reported 45.1 anchor leg split in the final of the 4X400-metre relay to bag us a bronze.
Shanice Love’s elimination in the preliminary round of the discus event was extremely painful to watch. It hurt on a number of levels. Firstly, she’d entered the event as a live medal threat. Secondly, and probably most dishearteningly, she’d suffered the ignominy of logging three foul throws on her way out of the competition two years ago in Eugene as well.
Nonetheless, her future looks as bright as that of any female thrower to come out of Jamaica in forever. The Excelsiorian’s academic chops have earned her a place at Florida State for the upcoming school year. She should fall right in step with a number of very talented Jamaican throwers already based there, who’re all under the tutelage of Jamaican Olympian Dorian Scott. I’ll continue to keep a keen eye on this one.
Another sad-bad moment came in the semifinal of the 110-metre hurdles when the gifted Damion Thomas, who I was expecting to be right in the medal mix, failed to successfully navigate the very first hurdle. Ironically, I’d rated his chances slightly higher than those of his compatriot De’Jour Russell because of his greater technical proficiency. No worries, though. He’ll likely have a chance to redeem himself when the IAAF World Under-20 Championships rolls into Tampere in two years’ time.
Sadly, Jamaica’s chances of female 4X400-metre relay gold evaporated at just about the time the management team in Bydgoszcz made the highly ill-advised decision to retain young Stacey-Ann Williams, who ran poorly in the prelims, at the expense of the much more sprightly-looking Roneisha McGregor. Unsurprisingly, the former was no match for the United States’ Karrington Winters on third leg. To compound the problem, Williams inexplicably ran the entire leg in lane two.
Now, I’m not saying we would’ve been able to get the better of the US if McGregor had run instead of Williams. (It probably would’ve taken a national record run for us to snatch the gold.) However, all the evidence from the prelims suggested that the former was indeed the better bet. As we saw last year at the senior worlds, pressure does ‘buss’ pipes. There’s no telling what 400-metre bronze medalist Junelle Bromfield would’ve been able to produce with a realistic shot at gold on the anchor leg.
I just hope that this bad experience only makes both of these young ladies stronger as they forge ahead in their respective careers.
For the umpteenth age-group championship in a row, our female short sprinters (100m and 200m) turned in what can only be described as a disappointing showing. None managed to make the final of their respective events. It makes no sense lamenting Natalliah Whyte’s injury-induced absence. The best of the rest, who were obviously healthy enough to run at our national trials and in Poland, just didn’t get the job done. Our 4X100-metre relay team’s disqualification seemed a morbid tribute to the existing melange of mediocrity.
The rest of the world has definitely stepped up the pace. Our girls need to start catching up. As for me, I’ve already started looking to Kevona Davis.
There’s nothing remotely shameful about not being able to beat a field of East African gazelles – some of whom look just a bit too ‘mature’ for their reported age – in any middle or long distance event. What is slightly embarrassing, however, is that we didn’t manage to place even a single starter in any event beyond 400 metres. Hopefully, middle distance hopes Cemore Donald and Keenan Lawrence will be able to fly the flag with distinction in Tampere.
Just a few more ‘goods’
The following is a bit of an addendum to the list of positives. Shannon Kalawan again showed that she is a warrior with a terrific performance out of lane eight to snatch 400-metre hurdles silver. She also gave flat 400m second-placer Lynna Irby all she could handle on the opening leg of the 4X4.
Sixteen year-old De’Jour Russell confirmed that he is a beast by making the 110-metre hurdles final against boys two and three years his senior. He also left Poland with a brand-spanking new 13.20 second PB to boot. Both Jaheel Hyde’s world youth best of 12.96 seconds over the 36-inch hurdles and Wilhem Belocian’s world junior record 12.99 seconds over the 39-inch sticks appear to be living on borrowed time.
Despite clearly being below his best, Nigel Ellis fought gallantly to grab a 200-metre bronze. A smooth transition from the junior to senior ranks could see him staking a serious claim to an individual World Championships or Olympic Games spot in the not too distant future.