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Previews30 Jul 2022

WU20 Cali 22 preview: sprints


Letsile Tebogo in action at the World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi 21 (© Dan Vernon)

More than 1500 athletes from 145 teams are set to compete at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 between 1-6 August.

Here we take a look at the women's and men's sprint events at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium.

Women’s 100m

Jamaica’s Tina Clayton is among the eight athletes in Cali who will be defending the titles they claimed in Nairobi last year and given her performances this season, the 17-year-old looks in form to gain another gold. Clayton dipped below 11 seconds for the first time last month, breaking the Jamaican U20 record with her world U20-leading time of 10.96 – a mark that puts her fifth on the world U20 all-time list.

Clayton also formed part of Jamaica’s world U20 record-breaking 4x100m quartet in Nairobi last year, alongside Serena Cole, Kerrica Hill and her twin sister Tia Clayton. Cole joins Tina in contesting the 100m in Cali and will be looking to join her compatriot on the podium having improved from 11.42 to 11.13 this year.

Also expected to be in the medal mix will be South Africa’s 17-year-old Viwe Jingqi, who has progressed from 11.67 to 11.22 this season, and Nigeria’s Tima Seikeseye Godbless, who reached the semifinals in Nairobi.

Shawnti Jackson is the daughter of 2005 world 400m hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson and the 17-year-old won the US U20 title in a wind-assisted 11.07 (2.7m/s) to secure her place on the team for Cali, where she’ll be joined by her 16-year-old teammate Mia Brahe-Pedersen. Nia Wedderburn-Goodison recently won the European U18 title, running a 11.39 PB.

Men’s 100m

The stand-out performer in the men’s equivalent is expected to be Letsile Tebogo of Botswana, following his 9.94 world U20 record in the heats at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 a fortnight ago. The 19-year-old 100m victor and 200m silver medallist in Nairobi also boasts a 10.12 fifth-place finish from the Wanda Diamond League in Eugene back in May, further illustrating his fine credentials ahead of a title defence few would bet against Tebogo succeeding in.

His nearest challengers are likely to come in the form of 2021 silver medallist Benjamin Richardson and their fellow Nairobi finalist, Godson Oke Oghenebrume.

South Africa’s 18-year-old Richardson – a member of the winning 4x100m relay team last year – has clocked a 10.08 lifetime best this season, whilst Oghenebrume of Nigeria, 19, was timed at 10.12 for a personal best in April.

Japan’s Hiroki Yanagita, 19, has also been in top form with a 10.16 clocking this season, further pointing towards a fierce battle ahead for the podium. 

Women’s 200m

Jamaica’s 18-year-old Brianna Lyston is gunning for her first major championship medal in light of her notable progression this year, which has seen her improve from 23.18 to 22.53 in the 200m and 11.44 to 11.14 in the 100m. She leads the 200m entries with that PB, which she ran into a -2.2m/s headwind at the ISSA/Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Champs in April.

US pair Jayla Jamison and Mia Brahe-Pedersen will be eager to take some silverware off the back of their recent respective 22.93 and 22.98 personal bests. Jamison has progressed from 23.65 this summer and won the US U20 title, while Brahe-Pedersen was runner-up in Eugene to ensure her inclusion on the athletes to watch list. Another looking to make an impact will be South Africa’s Viwe Jingqi, who has run 23.03 and competed at last year’s World U20 Championships in the half lap event as well as being a member of the 4x100m squad.

Men’s 200m

Thailand’s 16-year-old Puripol Boonson stormed into the spotlight in May, running 20.37 to win at the South East Asian Games – a time that put him fifth on the world U18 all-time list. There was even more to come and he improved to 20.19 at the Qosanov Memorial in Almaty the following month, becoming the third-fastest U18 200m sprinter in history behind only Erriyon Knighton and Usain Bolt. Despite being the youngest in an entry list featuring 70 athletes, he tops the lot, with South Africa’s Benjamin Richardson his closest challenger on paper thanks to the 20.38 PB he ran earlier this month.

Third in the senior British Championships, 19-year-old Jeriel Quainoo has improved from 21.60 to 20.40 this summer, and the 2021 European U20 4x100m relay gold medallist will have his eye on a first individual major championships medal in Cali.

Other athletes to keep an eye on are Australia’s Calab Law and Aidan Murphy, who both competed at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon – Law reaching the semifinals and Murphy running in the heats – and the experience gained from competing on the senior stage will no doubt aid their aspirations.

Letsile Tebogo of Botswana claimed 200m silver along with his 100m gold last year and also returns in this event. 

Women’s 400m

The stage is set for a duel between the current finest one lap runners in Jamaica and USA, as Dejanea Oakley and Mekenze Kelley face off in the 400m event.

Oakley ­– who ran in the mixed 4x400m heats in Nairobi last year – has registered a 51.81 personal best this season, while her fellow 18-year-old Kelley has improved from 53.65 to 51.98 this summer, and a fierce battle is predicted for the closely-matched pair.

Canada’s Ella Clayton was sixth in the 2021 edition of these championships but having progressed from 54.10 to 52.04 this season, the 19-year-old is a strong contender for a medal this time around.

Nairobi mixed 4x400m bronze medallist Priya Habbathanahalli Mohan of India has a best of 52.37 this campaign and the 19-year-old will be aiming to get into the medal mix following a fourth place finish in the individual event in 2021.

Men’s 400m 

The pair of US runners look set to assert their dominance here, with breakthrough runner Steven McElroy expected to lead the way.

The 19-year-old US U20 champion has progressed from 47.86 to 44.93 this year, establishing his authority in the event, while his compatriot Ashton Schwartzman, 19, has enjoyed a similar eye-catching improvement in 2022 – clocking 45.16 after a 47.24 2021 best – and he finished runner-up at the US U20 Championships.

Another athlete to watch should be Botswana’s Busang Collen Kebinatshipi. The 18-year-old 2021 4x100m gold medallist also has a 45.40 400m clocking to his name and will be determined to spoil the US gold medal hunt. Others to watch include Bahrain’s Yusuf Ali Abbas, who won at the Arab U20 Championships in May, as well as Jamaican U20 champion Shaemar Uter, who helped his team to fourth place in the mixed 4x400m relay in Nairobi.

Nicola Sutton for World Athletics