Alex Jordan (NZL) at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Sydney, Australia

Jordan’s long sprint double highlights Australian Youth Olympic Festival

Alex Jordan produced his own variation of ‘Run Like You Stole Something’ in winning a double in the 200 and 400 metres at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

The 16-year-old New Zealand speedster won his first gold medal in the 400 with his own mantra for going flat-out from the gun. “I was just going to give it my all until I passed out,” Jordan said after smashing the World Youth Qualifying time in taking the 400 in 47.86 seconds on the first day of athletics competition.

Jordan was as good as his word. He actually did pass out a few minutes after the race, exhausted by his exertions in the hot, windy conditions and perhaps feeling some minor effects from the stomach bug that swept the Kiwi team.

Jordan, who lives in Nelson at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, came back on the second day to take the 200 in 22.13 seconds. He almost certainly booked his place in the New Zealand team for the World Youth Championships in Bressanone, Italy, on 8-12 July. Where he had run from the inside lane in the 400, he was on the outside of the 200 field.

So this ‘Kiwi can fly’, which is appropriate seeing he comes from the same hometown as Rod Dixon, along with John Walker and Dick Quax one of the New Zealand middle and long-distance champions of the 1970s whose success was catalogued in a book of just that title by Ivan Agnew.

New Zealand won three titles at the festival, the third coming with 15-year-old Julia Ratcliffe taking the women’s hammer throw with a heave of 51.94 metres, her first ever throw exceeding 50 metres coming with oh-so-sweet timing indeed. In what is perhaps a Valerie Vili-inspired surge, New Zealand also took a silver in the women’s shot put through Siosetina Hakeai.

The women’s shot was won for the Oceania team by Margaret Satupai (14.52 metres, a World Youth Championships qualifier), a Samoan youngster who lives in Melbourne and competes for Glenhuntly, Ron Clarke’s club and one more often associated with distance runners. With China’s Xi Chen taking the bronze, the women’s shot was the only one of the 40 events contested in which the host nation was shut out of the medals.

Inevitably, Australian athletes dominated. The Youth Festival athletics is contested as a team event, the three Australian teams winning 31 golds (out of a total of 93 medals) between them. China took four - Huiqin Xu (3.70 metres) in the women’s pole vault, Siyu Gu (48.01) in the women’s discus, Leyuan Cui  (9:55.98) in the women’s 3000 metres and Yanxue Mao (23:33.83) in the women’s 5000 walk - New Zealand and Oceania three and one respectively, as noted; and Chinese Taipei one, through An-Li Wang in the women’s javelin throw with a WYCh qualifying standard of 46.92 metres.

The meeting’s shortest and simplest events - the two 100 metres sprints - took longest to decide. Both races had to be re-run after competitors failed to heed recall guns following a failure in the auto-timing system. The women’s was re-run later on day one, and won by Ashleigh Whittaker of Australia in 12.20 seconds.

The men’s race was apparently decided, with Mitchell Felsman of Australia winning in a hand-timed 10.7. After several protests, however, officials decided on a re-run which had to be scheduled for day two. Felsman won that, too, Fiji’s Banuve Tabakaucoro again taking the silver for Oceania and Mitchell Tysoe the bronze for Australia. This day though, a strong 2.8 metres per second headwind held the winning time back to 11.13.

Australia’s recently established men’s shot put strength looks likely to be continued by Damien Birkenhead, a young giant from Geelong, some 80 kilometres from Melbourne, who won with a distance of 19.22 metre. Birkenhead joined Ratcliffe (women’s hammer), Jordan (400), Cameron Hyde of Australia (13.92 in the 110 metres hurdles) and the Australia Gold women’s 4x100 relay, in establishing AYOF records in the fifth staging of the festival since it was inaugurated the year after the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Birkenhead was also second to teammate Huw Peacock of Tasmania (63.03 metres) in the men’s hammer throw.

Another impressive win in the throws came from Luanga Andria, a giant youngster who came to Australia as a refugee from Sudan. Andria won the javelin with a throw of 70.22 metres, adding another to his list of WYC qualifiers.  He has been signed up as a development player by one of Australia’s premier Rugby League teams, the Brisbane Broncos, but is very keen to get to the World Youth Championships before deciding between the two sports.

Jordan Williamsz, who is from the same club (Melbourne’s Knox) and has the same coach (Richard Huggins) as Olympian Jeff Riseley, took out a middle-distance double, winning the 1500 metres in a personal best 3:55.19 and following up with an 800 victory in 1:52.50. Williamsz was also a member of the winning 4x400 metres relay team.

Shani Sleeman, the winner at 1.79, and second-placed Amy Pejkovic (1.76), both bettered Australia’s selection standard for Bressanone in the women’s high jump. (The Australian standards are significantly tougher in all events than the IAAF qualifying standards. Nine athletes achieved the standards in Sydney, the Glynis Nunn-trained Alex Beck (second in the 400 in 48.09), long jumper Kurt Jenner (winner with 7.12) and shot putter William Sacilotto (second to Birkenhead with 18.60), doing so for the first time.)

Both sprint hurdles events featured head-to-head battles between World Youth-qualified athletes. Rosanna Lawson defeated Carly Rodger in the women’s 100 metres hurdles, a strong headwind holding the winning time back to 14.49. In the men’s event, Cameron Hyde beat Mitchell Tysoe, 13.92 to 13.97, reversing the result at the Pacific School Games in Canberra late last year.

Len Johnson for the IAAF