With another championship record, another world youth best and her second gold medal of the week, Candace Hill cemented her status as the star of the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 which concluded after five days of thrilling competition on Sunday (19).
The 16-year-old from Georgia powered from her blocks in the girls’ 200m final and though she had US team-mate Lauren Rain Williams for company as she turned into the home straight, Hill soon showed why she is being widely touted as the future of women's sprinting and drew well clear to win in 22.43, obliterating her previous best of 23.05.
“I had a great start and when I got into the home straight, I just gave it all I had,” she said. “I thought I’d just run a 22.9 but 22.4 is way above what I expected.”
Silver medallist Williams also set a personal best in second, her time of 22.90 actually faster than every winning time in the 16-year history of these championships.
Shortly after Hill completed her 100m/200m double, Abdul Hakim Sani Brown of Japan took to the track and emulated her achievement with an imperious performance in the boys’ 200m, his winning time of 20.34 taking 0.06 off Usain Bolt’s championship record.
Drawn in lane six, the 16-year-old flew from the blocks and led coming into the home straight, with South Africa’s Kyle Appel his closest pursuer.
Just like in the 100m earlier in the week, no one could get close to Sani Brown on the final run to the line and the Tokyo schoolboy came home a clear winner ahead of Appel (20.57) and 400m silver medallist Josephus Lyles of the USA (20.74), who also set personal bests.
“Two times gold in Cali is what I expected,” said Sani Brown. “I want to do so much more, win Olympic gold and set the world record. Cali was a big step to do that.”
Eight golds for USA
The USA unsurprisingly topped the medal table in Cali, doing so with a record medal haul. They won their eighth gold medal of the week in the final event, the mixed 4x400m relay, which was making its debut at these championships.
The quartets were comprised of two boys and two girls, with teams allowed to decide the running order.
Only the USA and Canada used the boy-girl-boy-girl strategy, and wound up taking the gold and bronze medals.
The US quartet of Keshun Reed, Lynna Irby, Norman Grimes and Samantha Watson were never truly threatened during the race, Watson bringing them home to a decisive victory in 3:19.54.
South Africa’s Kyle Appel, having blasted through the first 200 metres of his anchor leg, found himself in a head-to-head, battle-of-the-sexes duel with Canada’s Kyra Constantine for the silver medal.
He edged it, just, to grab the silver medal for South Africa, with both teams credited with the same 3:23.60.
In the girls’ 800m, little more than a hour before the relay, Watson produced a performance of superb tactical awareness, taking victory in a personal best of 2:03.54.
The 15-year-old sheltered behind Ethiopia’s Foziyu Niguse and Italy’s Marta Zenoni on the first lap before sweeping into the lead and unleashing a potent kick with 200 metres to go, building a lead that Zenoni and Ethiopia’s other runner, Gadese Ejara, simply couldn’t close.
Ejara also ran a PB of 2:03.54 in second while Zenoni finished third in 2:04.15.
“It was a very hard race,” said Watson. “I had to fight a lot.”
Botha surprises in the javelin
The shocks continued in the boys’ javelin, in which South Africa’s Paul Jacobus Botha sprung a major surprise on event favourite Niklas Kaul, adding almost four metres to his lifetime best with his winning throw of 78.49m.
Kaul, who had propelled himself to gold in the boys’ decathlon earlier in the week with a massive javelin throw, had to settle for silver this time, his best effort of 78.06m coming in the first round.
“I knew what I had come here for and it’s amazing to win gold,” said Botha. “The crowd was incredible and I want to thank everyone.”
“I felt good in my first attempt,” said Kaul, “but then I felt the exhaustion from my decathlon effort. I’m happy with gold and silver here in Cali.”
The girls’ long jump title went to the USA’s Tara Davis, whose final-round effort of 6.41m was more than enough to secure gold ahead of Kaiza Karlen of Sweden.
Karlen led for much of the competition after her 6.24m jump in the second round, which was a 17-centimetre improvement on her personal best. However, Davis took the lead with a 6.24m effort in the fifth round, which she improved again to 6.41m on her last attempt.
“I knew it was a big jump,” she said, “but I didn’t think it was that far.” Three centimetres covered the next five girls but the bronze medal went to Maja Bedrac of Slovenia with 6.22m.
Sweden’s Armand Duplantis won the boys’ pole vault, his winning clearance of 5.30m a championship record which brought a sizeable and extremely vocal Colombian crowd to its feet in celebration.
The final came down to a duel between Duplantis and Ukraine’s Vladyslav Malykhin, who also cleared 5.30m but was beaten on countback due to only clearing 5.25m on his second attempt.
“It’s great to have won the gold medal,” said Duplantis. “I expected a hard battle and I had it. I’m happy I had somebody to push me.”
The boys’ 3000m produced one of the most exciting finishes of the week, with Kenya’s Richard Yator Kimunyan unleashing a 55-second last lap and just managing to edge out his team-mate Davis Kiplangat and Ethiopia’s Tefera Mosisa in a three-way tussle down the home straight, his time of 7:54.45 giving him the win by just 0.07.
“The race was not too hard for me,” said Kimunyan. “The finish was very fast and I was strong. It’s great for Kenya, because my colleagues are used to winning.”
There was more joy for Kenya in the boys’ 2000m steeplechase, with Vincent Kipyegon Ruto taking victory in 5:27.58 after an aggressive display of front-running.
The 16-year-old’s win ensured the gold medal made its way back to Kenya for the seventh time in the nine editions of these championships. Ethiopia’s Wogene Sebisibe took the silver medal with a personal best of 5:29.41, while Kenya’s Geofrey Rotich was third in 5:30.16.
“The wind was a small problem but I still produced my best,” said Ruto. “I always expected this victory.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF