Spikes02 Jul 2015

Trust in Youth


World Youth

The ninth edition of the biennial IAAF World Youth Championships takes place in Cali, Colombia, on July 15-19. We give you six good reasons why you should pay close attention to the flagship global athletics competition for under-18 athletes.

1. Rising stars

The list of past gold medallists reads like a who’s who of track and field.

Future world and Olympic champions Usain Bolt, Ladji Doucoure, Kirani James, Yelena Isinbayeva, Anna Chicherova, Jacques Freitag, Krisztian Pars, Valerie Adams, Allyson Felix, Jason Richardson, Natasha Hastings, Sally Pearson, Kamila Skolimowska, Zuzana Hejnova, Dani Samuels, Christian Taylor, David Storl and Mohammed Aman – to mention just 18 – have all been crowned world youth champions before enjoying further global success at senior level.

World youth gold can clearly translate to glory at the top level.

2. Silver linings

“If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.” Those were the famous words of legendary Liverpool FC boss Bill Shankly. However, silver at the world youth champs has proved a useful currency for future global senior success.

Past second place finishers include Ethiopian distance great Kenenisa Bekele, Olympic 400m champion Kirani James (before winning double gold at the 2009 edition), two-time Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar, world and Olympic discus champ Robert Harting, world and Olympic steeplechase champion Brimin Kipruto, world 110m hurdles champion Ryan Brathwaite and world and Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic.

Some list of losers, eh?

Robert Kiptoo Biwott runs a 3:36.77 1500m for a championship record at the last edition in Donetsk

3. The road to somewhere

Just because an athlete does not win a medal at the world youths does not mean they do not have the ability to one day excel on the global stage. Study the results carefully; the future superstar performer might be a little further down the field.

Yohan Blake, the 2011 world 100m champion, placed seventh in the 100m final at the 2005 edition in Marrakesh, for example. At those same championships, the 2013 world pole vault gold medallist Raphael Holzdeppe no-heighted. Three years before his triumph in the men’s javelin at the London Olympics, Keshorn Walcott finished 13th at the 2009 edition in Bressanone.

4. Chance to shine

One of the great attractions of track and field is that it is one of the great equalisers – countries with little past pedigree can still produce a global star. The same stands true at the world youths.

Smaller countries that have tasted precious metal at the biennial event include Chinese Tapei, for whom Ming-Huang Chang won a memorable discus gold in 1999. In 2005, Arantxa King won long jump gold for Bermuda, while the 2009 girls' shot put silver medal returned to the Pacific Island nation of Samoa courtesy of Margaret Satupai.

Perhaps one of the most compelling stories occurred at those same championships when Thailand collected its first ever athletics world championship medal as Supanara Sukhasvaski – a descendent of King Rama IV – leapt to gold in the boys’ long jump.

A memorable boys' 800m race in Lille in 2011

5. Double top

The world youth champs have provided some memorable doubles since their inception back in 1999.

Romania’s Cristine Spataru claimed the girls’ long and triple jump double in 2003. Two years later Great Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey pulled off an eye-catching boys 100m/200m double. Grenada’s reigning Olympic 400m champion Kirani James served notice of his rich potential by claiming the 200m and 400m double in 2009.

At the most recent edition in Donetsk, Florentina Marincu – by coincidence another Romanian – was crowned girls long and triple jump champion.

One athlete who missed out on the double was Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprint icon was back then a 200m/400m sprinter, but after securing gold in the half-lap event in 2003 in Sherbrooke, Canada, he progressed through his heat of the 400m only to not start in his semi-final.

6. Great athletics moments

The IAAF World Youth Championships has served many cracking moments in the history of under-18 athletics. Kirani James gets another shout out for his 45.24 400m gold in Bressanone, just 0.10 outside the world youth record.

The boys’ 800m final in 2011 in Lille was a cracker of a race and also produced a trio of red-hot times; three of the eight fastest times in history, to be precise – Leonard Kirwa Kosencha (1:44.08), Mohammed Aman (1:44.68) and Timothy Kitum (1:44.98). Another memorable moment at the Lille championships occurred when Kiwi shot putter Jacko Gill launching the shot out to a world youth record mark of 24.35m.

At the 2013 event in Donetsk, Jamaican Yanique Thompson (12.94) and Dior Hall (13.01) blitzed to the two fastest girls 100m hurdles times in history. Expect more of the same in Cali.

...and then there was this of course.