Some of the world’s top teenage athletes produced a superb evening session on Wednesday to keep the small crowd on its feet at Kasarani Stadium, closing out the opening day of the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 in fine style.
In one of the most exciting contests of the night, the girls’ shot put final went down to the wire in a thrilling three-way battle held in wet conditions.
Yu Tianxiao of China took the lead in the fifth round with a 17.62m effort, and teammate Sun Yue fell just three centimetres short of that mark with a 17.59m attempt.
With China looking to earn the top two spots on the podium, Germany’s early leader Selina Dantzler spoiled the party with a 17.64m heave to grab the title.
“Coming into the final, my strategy was just to give it my all,” said Dantzler. “I’m proud to have done it for my country and my home town Munich.”
On the track, the girls’ 3000m final was equally close, with Ethiopia coming out on top of the host nation in a hard-fought race.
Pushed all the way to the line, Abersh Minsewo managed to snatch the gold medal. She narrowly edged out Emmaculate Chepkirui of Kenya by 0.07, winning the race in 9:24.69.
Minsewo’s compatriot, Yitayish Mekonene, took third place in 9:28.46.
“We trained in similar conditions (in the rain) back home, so it was not as difficult as you may think,” Minsewo said.
“I’m happy to have fulfilled my responsibility to win the first gold medal for my country.”
Sprinter Tshenolo Lemao delivered a historic performance in the boys’ 100m final, becoming the first South African athlete to earn a medal over the distance at a world championship in any age division.
While compatriot Retshidisitswe Mlenga and Jamaica’s Tyreke Wilson had entered the final as the favourites, Lemao held his composure after the race was disrupted by two faulty starts, charging across the line in 10.57.
Mlenga, who had earlier won his semifinal in a PB of 10.37 in dry conditions, secured a one-two for South Africa by covering the short dash in 10.61 and Wilson held on for bronze in 10.65.
“It was a great race to run. I was really excited going into it and I just wanted to go all out,” Lemao said.
“I knew the conditions would be tough, but I told myself I needed to stay strong and focused, and just go.”
Meanwhile, in preliminary rounds, Brazil’s Lorraine Martins was the fastest of the qualifiers for the girls’ 100m semifinals, to be held on Thursday afternoon. She won her heat in 11.85.
Jamaica’s Kevona Davis (11.88) and Turkey’s Mizgin Ay (11.92) also dipped under 12 seconds to win their respective heats.
In the opening round of the boys’ 800m, Melese Nberet of Ethiopia (1:52.53) was the fastest of the qualifiers for the semifinals on Thursday.
Jordan Diaz of Cuba was the best of the entrants in the qualifying round of the boys’ triple jump, launching a 15.95m leap to progress as the favourite for Friday’s final.
The boys’ hammer qualifying round was cancelled due to the inclement weather conditions, with the entire field of 18 athletes automatically entering the medal decider on Friday.