Previews15 Aug 2021

World U20 Championships previews: women's sprints and hurdles


Ditaji Kambundji at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)

Almost 1000 athletes representing 119 teams will be in action when the World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi 21 takes place in Kenya from 17-22 August.

The opening ceremony will take place on 17 August ahead of the first day of competition on 18 August.

Here we take a look ahead to the women's sprints and hurdles events.


Women’s 100m

Although Jamaica's Briana Williams is the fastest U20 woman this year and double gold medallist in the 100m and 200m from the 2018 World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, she’s handed the baton to her compatriots Tina Clayton, Serena Cole and Kerrica Hill who will be representing the Caribbean nation in the women’s 100m in Nairobi.

With Ackera Nugent, who is second to Williams on the U20 standings (11.09) penciled for the 100m hurdles, Clayton has been saddled with the task of retaining the women’s 100m gold for Jamaica. That does not come across as a tall order for the teenager, going by her exploits at last month’s NACAC U18 Championships in San Jose where she raced to an impressive world U18 lead and personal best of 11.17 to win the 100m. Considering that she turns 17 on the first day of the championships in Nairobi, finishing on the podium will no doubt serve as the perfect birthday gift for the rising star.

She will find formidable competition in Bahamian sprinter Camille Rutherford, who clocked a personal best of 11.32 back in March and won the NACAC U20 title in 11.36, while Serbia’s European U20 silver medallist Ivana Ilic is also one to watch out for, having clocked a personal best and national U20 record of 11.38 en route to winning the Serbian Championships in June.


Women’s 200m

Following her performance at the Tokyo Olympics where she broke the African record twice to win the silver medal in the women’s 200m, clocking a world U20 record of 21.81 in the process, Namibia’s Christine Mboma is the woman to beat in the event and will be joined by her teammate Beatrice Masilingi, who finished sixth in Tokyo with a lifetime best of 22.28.

Nigeria’s Favour Ofili, who is the African indoor record-holder over 200m, missed the opportunity of competing in Tokyo and she will be hoping for a podium finish in Nairobi, having narrowly missed out on a medal at the NCAA Championships where she placed fourth in the women’s 200m final. Ofili is third on the U20 top list this season with a personal best of 22.30 and she will be joined by compatriot Anita Taviore (23.18). Jamaica’s Brianna Lyston follows with her time of 23.28.


Women’s 400m

It is turning out to be a remarkable season for Imaobong Nse Uko, who only started representing Nigeria this year despite having dominated the women’s 400m on the domestic scene for the last three years. Her first two outings for the country have been in the relays, with the most recent one being the Tokyo Olympics where she was part of the quartet that ran an African record of 3:13.60 in the mixed 4x400m.

Uko will be hoping to give a good account of herself as she competes in the individual 400m and comes with the fastest time in the field, 51.70, which she ran to win the National Sports Festival in April.

Polish sprinter Kornelia Lesiewicz is her country’s sole entrant in the women’s 400m and appears to be equal to the task, going by her impressive form this year which has seen her racing to a lifetime best of 52.02 to win the Polish U20 title and several other medals including gold in the 400m at the European U20 Championships, gold in the 4x400m at the European Team Championships and silver in the 4x400m at the World Relays.

The Jamaican pair of Dejanea Oakley (52.51) and Oneika Mcannuff (52.54) who finished 1-2 at the ISSA/Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Champs in Kingston, will also hope to impress.


Women’s 100m hurdles

World U18 100m hurdles record-holder Ackera Nugent will be making her second appearance at the World U20 Championships and unlike in 2018 when she was disqualified in the 4x100m with the Jamaican team, the 19-year-old comes to Nairobi as the world U20 leader in her event with a personal best of 12.76 which she set in May to win the NCAA Preliminary West Round.

It’s been an extremely busy season for the Jamaican hurdler who equalled the women’s world U20 60m hurdles record of 7.91 earlier in the year and also set a personal best of 11.09 in the 100m. Nugent appears to still have a lot more in the tank and will be hoping to inspire a 1-2 for Jamaica along with Kerrica Hill who comes with a lifetime best of 13.21.

However, they will have to contend with Switzerland’s Ditaji Kambundji, who is the European U20 champion in the event and ranked second on the world toplist with her time of 12.94 which is the Swiss U20 record. Norway’s Andrea Rooth is also in the mix with her time of 13.11, as well as Spain’s Aitana Radsma and Polish athlete Marika Majewska who have identical times of 13.39.


Women’s 400m hurdles

Garriel White has raced six times over the 400m hurdles outdoors and she’s triumphed in every single one. The icing on the cake was setting a personal best of 57.28 to win the Jamaican U20 Championships two months ago, and the 18-year-old will be hoping to maintain her winning streak at the World U20 Championships in Kenya.

Canadian athlete Savannah Sutherland has also remained unbeaten in her races over the same distance and set her lifetime best of 57.87 nearly a month ago but she will face the daunting task of running faster than White who has been signed by LSU for the fall of 2021.

Denmark’s Martha Rasmussen, who is the European U20 Championships bronze medallist, and Ludivine Aubert of France will both hope to break the 58-second barrier as they each contend for a medal.

Yemi Olus for World Athletics