Jaheel Hyde after setting a 110m hurdles world youth best at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
On a terrific first day of athletics finals inside an electric Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, the accomplishments of Jamaican hurdling hero Jaheel Hyde even eclipsed the host nation’s multiple gold medal winning display at the second Youth Olympic Games on Saturday (23).
Just one month after blitzing to the world junior 400m hurdles title, Hyde secured the 110m hurdles crown and did so by obliterating the world youth best by the stunning margin of 0.16 to stop the clock in 12.96.
Hyde had come within 0.01 of Wilhem Belocian’s now former world youth best of 13.12 when taking the 2013 world youth title and is clearly riding on the crest of a wave.
In Nanjing, he made a swift start and was quickly rhythmically popping over the barriers before flashing past the line in 12.96.
“I am not surprised (by the time),” said Hyde. “My times in training suggested I would run this fast. I was a bit nervous beforehand. That is just racing. I knew I had to follow my coach’s instructions, keep a cool head and win that gold medal.
“To come here and win means the world to me because it now means I’ve won all the major gold medals in my age group; world youth, world junior and now Youth Olympics. What more can I ask for?”
Hyde insists also training for 400m hurdles has aided his endurance and this, in turn, has helped his sprint hurdling. And the versatile teenage hurdler has no plans to give up either event in a hurry.
When asked which event he planned to focus on in future, he answered simply: “both!”
Elsewhere, it was a night of unashamed patriotism for the home fans who secured no fewer than four gold medals during an unprecedented evening of Chinese success.
Ma Zhenxia set the ball rolling by crushing the opposition by nearly a full minute to win the women’s 5000m race walk in a 2014 world-youth-leading mark of 22:22.08.
The host nation also secured the discus double with Sun Kangping taking the girls’ title with a personal best of 52.79m. Cheng Yulong produced a perfectly timed counter-punch to climb to the top rung of the dais in the boys’ competition.
Yulong had led the competition from his opening throw, only for Germany’s Clemens Prufer to dislodge Cheng from top spot in the final round with 63.52m. However, the local athlete refused to panic and with his very next throw hurled the 1.5kg implement out to a personal best of 64.14m for the gold medal.
There was a whiff of controversy attached to Liang Xiaojing’s success in the women’s 100m.
The overwhelming favourite and fastest qualifier for the final, Ewa Swoboda, slowly fell forward out of her blocks moments before the start. In the Pole’s defence, there appeared to be a lot of noise in the stadium and perhaps on another day the starter might have deemed it faulty.
Nonetheless, Swoboda was not given the benefit of any doubt and was disqualified, leaving the way clear for Liang to strike gold in 11.65, 0.06 ahead of Paraskevi Andreou of Cyprus, but a hefty 0.35 shy of the time Swoboda clocked in her heat.
Siame the teenage speed king
In the boys’ equivalent, Zambia’s Sydney Siame made the most of his opportunity to snatch a dramatic victory by just 0.01 in 10.56.
Benefiting from the non-appearance in the final of Jamaica’s world number two Raheem Chambers, who had pulled up sharply with a hamstring problem in the heats, Siame ran down slick-starting Australian Trae Williams and held off a furious late change for the line from Japan’s Kenta Oshima to take the victory.
“I was 100 per cent confident I would win it,” said the 16-year-old Siame. “It is a great achievement for me. We are working hard in Zambia. My long-term goal is to be at the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.”
During the morning session, Hyde’s good friend and Jamaican team-mate Martin Manley struck gold in the boys’ 400m to end a frustrating season on a high.
Manley, 17, the world youth champion, had struggled to find his best form this year and was disappointed to exit the World Junior Championships at the semi-final stage last month.
However, the St Jago school student – the alma mater of world champions Yohan Blake, Bert Cameron and Melaine Walker – scorched around the track to take the gold medal in 46.31.
“It means so much (to win),” said Manley. “It takes a heavy burden off me.”
In the women's event, Australia’s Jessica Thornton took the gold in 52.50, the second-fastest girls’ 400m time this year, which represents a near second-and-a-half improvement for her during these Games.
With a nod to the future, the gifted Thornton – who was still in nappies when her countrywoman Cathy Freeman unforgettably struck 400m gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney – is eligible to compete at next year’s IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Martha Bissah of Ghana stole a march on her main opposition around the final bend to take gold in the girls’ 800m in 2:04.90.
Meanwhile, in the very first of 13 medal events on Saturday, France’s Laura Valette equalled her personal best of 13.34 – set in the heat – to pip Elvira Herman of Belarus to the 100m hurdles title with a well-timed lunge for the line.
Russia’s Danil Lysenko, sixth at the World Juniors last month, cleared 2.20m to win the boys’ high jump; Angelica Moser struck gold with a personal best of 4.35m in the girls’ pole vault and Yelizaveta Babiy of Ukraine took the girls’ long jump title with 6.26m.
Steve Landells for the IAAF