With now just one week to go to the 7th edition of the IAAF World Youth Championships which will take place in Lille, France from 6 to 10 July, no fewer than 1,385 youth athletes, 760 boys and 625 girls, representing 175 countries have confirmed their intention to compete in the Championships, making Lille 2011 the most popular World Youths ever.
The previous highest number of participating athletes was 1,285 registered at the 2009 edition in Südtirol, Italy.
Previously, the 2005 edition of the competition which was held in Marrakech, Morocco saw a higher number of participating nations with 177 countries represented for 1250 athletes.
The Marrakech edition marked the coming of age of a handful of youth athletes who went on to excel on the international scene. Most impressive was the progression of Australia’s Dani Samuels, a World Youth Discus champion and Shot Put bronze medallist in 2005 who conquered the senior World Championships Discus Throw gold medal at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin.
Barbados’ Ryan Brathwaite was also crowned a World champion in Berlin after his epic finish in the men’s 110m Hurdles; he had won silver at the 2005 World Youth Championships.
We also remember how Russia’s Tatyana Chernova dominated the Heptathlon competition in Marrakech to become the 2005 World Youth champion, she has since added the Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze and Doha 2010 World Indoor bronze to her collection of medals.
Throughout the years, the IAAF World Youth Championships has been an excellent springboard for future generations of world class athletes from the likes of triple Olympic and World champion Usain Bolt to three-time World champion Allyson Felix whose careers ignited at the Youth level.
And in line with history, tomorrow’s World and Olympic champions may well be hiding among the 1,385 athletes who will be competing in Lille next week.
- Dani Samuels of Australia celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's Discus with Coach Denis Knowles in the Berlin Olympic Stadium (Getty Images) © Copyright