Jana Pittman winning the 400m at the 2000 IAAF World Junior Championships (© Getty Images)
"Now I have a chance of making history," said Jana Pittman after winning the first half of an imposing 400 metres – 400 metres hurdles double at the World Junior Championships here on Friday.
Despite a gruelling racing programme here this week, with a race on each of the three previous days, the Australian powered through the first half of Friday’s 400 metres final, and came into the finishing straight some 12 metres clear of her closest challenger, Jamaica’s Kareen Gayle.
But as Gayle blew out, Pittman came under attack in the last one-fifth of the race from the Pole drawn a lane inside her, Aneta Lemiesz.
For a one of those agonising moments so typical of dramatic 400-metre races, it seemed possible that Pittman had gone too hard to early, as Lemiesz closed the gap slightly.
Any who doubted Pittman were wrong, though, as the teenager from Sydney – who celebrates her 18th birthday in three weeks’ time – came home in 52.45sec, the finishing time perhaps reflecting the rigours of a week’s hard racing on the Australian, whose best time is 51.76.
Lemiesz duly collected silver and a Polish junior record 52.78, while Colombia’s South American champion, Norma Gonzalez, won bronze with 53.30.
Pittman was quickly whisked away after the race for a massage and rest, ahead of Saturday’s 400 metres hurdles final, where as the world youth champion from last year and world junior record-holder, she is regarded as the favourite for gold.
But she will need a good night’s rest. "I was feeling so tired today," she said, "I never slept well at all last night."
Steven Downes for IAAF