Several personal best performances and competition records highlighted the athletics section of the 6th Commonwealth Youth Games held in Nassau, The Bahamas 18-23 July.
On the opening day, Julien Alfred created history by becoming St. Lucia’s first ever gold medallist at these Games. Alfred, who attends high school in Jamaica, showed great poise under pressure en route to a memorable 100m victory in 11.56 (-0.3 m/s), just 0.03 shy of her PB. Claiming silver was Australia’s fast-finishing flag bearer Riley Day (11.59) who edged Canada’s Deondra Green who ran an 11.62 PB.
“It’s my first Commonwealth Games and coming into this competition was really hard,” said Alfred. “I suffered a lot of injuries, so I’m quite elated right now.”
Trinidad & Tobago’s CARIFTA Games champion, Adell Colthrust, added more silverware to his trophy cabinet after striking gold in the boys’ 100m. Colthrust got off to a flying start and quickly separated himself from the rest of the field at the halfway point. Despite rapidly coming back to the chasing pack in the latter stages, his early advantage was sufficient enough to carry him through the tape in a new personal best of 10.55.
Jamaica’s Kevon Stone, who was left behind in the blocks, came back with a late surge that took him from fifth to clinch silver on the line in 10.59 relegating hometown favourite Adrian Curry (10.61) to bronze.
Wallace outsprints Chemutai to take girls’ 1500m
Scotland’s Erin Wallace chopped more than three seconds off her PB to secure the girls’ 1500m title in 4:16.61, making her the fourth fastest on this year’s world youth list. “When I crossed the line first, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Wallace who also broke the two-year-old 4:18.02 games record. Wallace was challenged all the way by Kenya’s Viola Chemutai who became the joint fifth fastest girl this season while registering a lifetime best of 4:16.73.
Prior to these games Emmaculate Chepkirui of Kenya had never won a global title following runner-up finishes at last year’s IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland (5000m) and the recent IAAF World U18 championships (3000m) in Nairobi. However, Chepkirui left Nassau on a golden note as she gave an immaculate performance in one of her specialties winning the 3000m in 9:25.20.
Her countryman John Waweru scored an impressive victory in the boys’ 1500m in 3:48.86. Waweru, was forced to shift gears around the top bend to move clear of English duo Joshua Lay (3:49.35 PB) and Luke Duffy (3:49.70 PB) who threatened, briefly, to rewrite the script with their gutsy last lap tactics.
Luchembe takes 400m title
Zambia’s Kennedy Luchembe was a surprise winner in the boys’ 400m crossing the finish line in 47.63 slicing 0.09 off his personal best. World U18 bronze medallist Colby Jennings of Turks and Caicos, perhaps feeling the effects of jet lag, could not replicate the form shown in Nairobi, and finished a distant fifth in 48.61.
Australia celebrated a fantastic 1-2 finish in the girls’ equivalent as Bendere Oboya (52.69) upstaged teammate and pre-race favourite Ella Connolly (52.72) in a nail-biting contest. In the process, both athletes recorded huge PBs and were also comfortably inside the games record of 52.97 set by Zambia’s Racheal Nachula in 2008.
“This just feels amazing to get a massive PB in an international race,” said the Ethiopian-born Oboya who is now the second fastest U18 girl this season. “I’m still processing it in my head.”
Allison takes 100m hurdles title for Jamaica
Shanette Allison’s scintillating run in the girls’ 100m hurdles continued Jamaica’s strong showing in sprint hurdling this season. Allison won gold in a personal best 13.26 (-0.4 m/s) defeating her main challenger Lateisha Willis of Australia who took silver clocking 13.55. Meanwhile Sam Bennett of England won the boys 110m hurdles in 13.71 (-0.4 m/s) setting a new games record.
Johnelle Thomas won Jamaica’s second gold medal with a smashing run in the girls’ 400m hurdles in a lifetime best and games record 59.40. Canada’s Sharelle Samuel was a close second in 59.59 with Thomas’s teammate Terice Steen (1:00.68) claiming bronze.
Alastair Chalmers of Guernsey won his country’s only medal in the boys’ 400m hurdles in a lifetime best of 51.22. Further back was Seamus Derbyshire of England in 52.00 a new PB.
Double gold for Tutti
On the infield, Trinity Tutti was a standout performer among the girls in the throwing events winning two gold medals. The Canadian set a games record in the shot put (17.82m) on the opening day then returned the following day to capture the discus title (49.57m).
Despite it being his first international competition, New Zealand’s Connor Bell, came to these games as the overwhelming favourite in the boys’ discus and duly obliged. The 16-year-old, who is coached by two-time Olympic champion Valerie Adams, launched the disc out to 63.17m some three metres farther than runner-up James Tomlinson (60.11m) of Wales.
“My last two throws were really good. I cranked two over 63m and got into a good rhythm,” said Bell. “This is the start of a journey, the first step of the path and I’ll see where the path takes me.”
Long jump titles to Mills and Noble
Reigning European youth champion Holly Mills of England easily won the girls long jump, with her first round effort, cutting the sand at 6.19m (0.4 m/s) for another games record. No other jumper reached the six-metre mark as Canada’s Tatiana Aholou, who had quite a busy afternoon between the 100m rounds and long jump, was next best at 5.97m.
“I can’t put the last few days into words,” said Mills. “First to carry the flag at the opening ceremony and now to win gold it’s been unbelievable.”
Sheldon Noble was triumphant in the boys section sailing to a lifetime best 7.64m (1.8 m/s) to win Antigua and Barbuda’s first gold medal at the games. Australia’s Benjamin Schmidtchen 7.54m and Bahamian Denvaughn Whymns 7.15m rounded out the podium spots.
Northern Island’s Sommer Lecky soared to new heights in the girls’ high jump clearing 1.83m to add 1cm to the previous games record by South Africa’s Marizca Gertenbach that stood for 17 years.
Sean Szalek of Australia cleared 2.11m to win the boys’ section then sprained his ankle attempting what would have been a new personal best height at 2.15m. The proud Australian collected his gold medal on crutches.
Elsewhere Uganda’s Josephine Lalam won the girls javelin with a 51.89m throw while Australian Van Janse took the boys’ with 74.19m.
Australia won two out of the three mixed relays – 4x100m (43.19) and 4x400m (3:25.08) with host country Bahamas taking the mixed 4x200m in 1:31.50.
Noel Francis for the IAAF