Three newly crowned Asian youth champions impressed on Day 3 of the 1st Asian Youth Athletics Championships in Doha, setting world leading performances and sending a strong signal to their rivals just two months before the 9th IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Day 3 also saw the names of four more nations, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Japan, added onto the list of countries which have won at least one gold medal, bringing the total number to twelve.
The star of the day was China’s hammer thrower Xu Wenjie. The young athlete followed the footsteps of many great Chinese hammer throwers of the past to win the event with a massive 75.15 throw, a national youth best and the second best performance of all-time, second only to Hungary’s Reka Gyuratz 76.04 wortd youth best. India’s Ashish Jakhar was also impressive with 71.79, the fifth best throw ever for the youth category.
In the boy’s events, the athlete to watch was undoubtedly Uzbekistan’s Vladislav Palyunin. The 17-year-old from Uzbekistan, who lives, trains and studies in Dubai, bettered his personal best by 18 metres, to claim gold in the Javelin Throw with 79.11, the best performance in the world for 2015.
“I didn’t train much the last couple of years due to hepatitis. That explains the huge improvement, but I knew I was capable of throwing that far. I can even exceed the 80m mark, but I guess even 79m would be enough to win gold in Cali,” said the overwhelmed winner.
Vladislav’s father, Dmitry, is his idol. He had represented the Unified team at the 1992 Olympics, the Soviet Union at the 1991 World Championships and Uzbekistan at the 1993 World Championships. His personal record is 85.74. “My father introduced me to athletics, along with my uncle who was also a javelin thrower. I love athletics and I dream of becoming an Olympic champion one day.”
A few minutes after Palyunin’s victory, Uzbekistan captured gold, this time in the high jump, with Safina Sadullaeva, who beat Honk Kong’s Wong Yuen Nam on countback. Both athletes cleared 1.71 and a jump-off was needed to decide the winner. After both failed at 1.69, Safina cleared 1.67, while Wong failed.
Another 2015 world youth best performance was set by Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser Naser in the 400m. The young Bahraini was simply irresistible with her perfect style and pace, finishing in 53.02. India’s Jisna Mathew trailed her with 53.84, the sixth fastest time in the world this year.
Kyrgyz Arina Kleshchukov set the pace in the 800m after the bell rang for the final round and survived a late surge by Japan’s Misato Kaneko, who pushed her hard in the final metres. Kleshchukov crossed the line in 2:14.73, with Kaneko following in 2:15.04. The real drama, however, unfolded in the battle for the bronze medal, when Kazakhstan’s Anastassiya Chshadylo tipped and fell while trying to reach the leaders. Lebanon’s Sara Joe Rafik Kortbawi took advantage of the Kazakh’s misfortune to pass her and claim the final spot on the podium.
Pakistan’s Muhammad Afzal needed only one valid distance to win the Triple Jump with 15.44, ahead of Sri Lanka’s Chamal Kumarasiri Liyana Waduge, who had a large group of supporters to back him. This was the first medal for Sri Lanka at the 1st Asian Youth Championships and a personal best for the young Sri Lankan, whose previous record was 15.18. The pre-event favourite, India’s Sonu Kumar, leaped 15.08, some 42 centimetres behind his personal best to win bronze.
Japan’s long-awaited maiden gold medal finally came today, courtesy of Kanae Sugimura’s victory in the Long Jump. The Japanese leaped 5.90 in her fourth attempt to surpass Korea’s Huijin Lee’s early lead (5.82).
The formidable Chinese team excelled in running events as well, adding three more golds to their total tally. Hunag Peng prevailed in the 1500m with 4:05.85; Tian Wanhua dominated the 2000m Steeplechase with ease, clocking 7:01.06, ahead of North Korea’s Choe Kang Bonk, a distant second in 7:14.88; and finally, Wu Yu Ang ran close to his personal best (47.33) to win the 400m in style with a time of 47.55. Thailand celebrated their first medal, a silver with Nattapong Kongkraphan (48.02), as did Malaysia, courtesy of Russel Alexander Nasir, a resident of Tasmania, who was third in 49.07.
“I am happy to have finished in a medal position as I have a pretty sore hamstring and I was unsure I would even be able to finish the race. It was actually pretty good on track - I started really well but in the last 150m I had nothing left in the tank,” said the bronze medallist.
“It's my first time competing internationally so there is so much to adapt to. Different time zones, climate: it is a great experience. I was born in Malaysia but my family moved to Tasmania when I was three years old and it's very different from Qatar. For the rest of my season, my aim is to prepare and perform well at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa.”
Khaled Alsaid Fares from Kuwait won the 110m Hurdles, clocking 13.92 in a dramatic way. China’s Bo Xiaoshuai, who had beaten him in qualifying with a much better time (13.75), lead throughout the whole race but hit the last hurdle and lost his pace, eventually finishing second in 13.92.
The Pole Vault title went to Taipei’s Yao Wen Yeh (4.90).
Competition resumes tomorrow for the final day of the 1st Asian Youth Championships. For full results and info, visit www.athleticsasia.org
Every athlete qualifying for a major championship has a story of sacrifice, hard work and overcoming difficulties. As the inaugural Asian Youth Championships kick into gear in Doha, however, this adage rings true for some athletes more than the others - and for none more so than the three-strong Yemeni contingent.
The trio of runners – Ebrahim Mohammed Shabil, Yahya Al Fakih and Entesar Muhsin Al Madhfari – had been competing at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China with their national team when the conflict erupted in their own country. Besides the obvious cost in human suffering resulting from it, the violence threatened to disrupt the months-long preparations the trio had put in ahead of their Doha performance. Fortunately, the world of sport, and in particular the Qatar Athletics Federation, came to the rescue.
“We did not expect anyone to support us after what happened in our home country,” said Shabil after a fine performance in the 2000m steeplechase, in which he finished fifth. “Qatar and its athletics federation took the initiative to invite us to reside and train in Doha ahead of the championships.”
The hospitality of Qatar, which provided funding for the athletes’ travel, accommodation and sustenance, proved a boon for the steeplechaser. “A month and a half in Doha was the best preparation I could have hoped for this championship. I improved my personal best [to 6:18.88] and I hope this will be an important step towards improving my level.”
Shabil’s teammates, unfortunately, weren’t able to claim similarly impressive results – Al Madhfari closing in last in the 3000m and Al Fakih being disqualified in the same 2000m steeplechase race in which his compatriot was participating; but considering the dire outlook for their preparations a mere two months ago, the sole result of being able to take part in these inaugural Asian Youth Championships was a success.
Al Madhfari’s race was exemplary of the determination of this group of athletes. The 17-year-old, who only found out she would be competing days before the event, collapsed after crossing the finish line, having given her all to complete the 3000m race.
“I was completely exhausted after the end, but I was just happy I could participate in these Championships,” said the runner, who originally took up the sport as a way to keep fit and has been involved in athletics for the last two years.
Like her team-mate, Al Madhfari has words of gratitude for the warm hospitality she was given in Doha. “I want to thank Qatar and the Athletics Federation for the wonderful reception we received. It made us feel as if we were in our home country: the crowd cheered me throughout the whole race. It was an amazing feeling.”
As for Shabil, boosted by this uplifting story of sporting solidarity and his good result in the race, the steeplechaser can now make plans for the rest of his season – a season that could have very well been derailed by the events in Yemen. “I will be taking part in the Arab Youth Athletics Championships in Tunisia next month, hoping to achieve a good result and qualify for the World Championships in China. That would be a dream.”
As his recent experience has shown, dreams do sometimes come true.