Katarina Johnson-Thompson leaps windy 6.81m to win gold in Barcelona as fellow heptathlete Jazmin Sawyers takes the bronze
It was a podium finish reminiscent of the 1988 edition of the IAAF World Junior Championships where Fiona May and Jo Wise finished first and third respectively in the long jump. But what made the feat of Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Jazmin Sawyers in Barcelona tonight so notable is that neither of them even specialise in the event.
As well as being good friends, both Johnson-Thompson and Sawyers are heptathletes and until now had been better known for their all-round ability. But instead of tackling the seven-event discipline in Barcelona, they instead chose to compete in the long jump. Sawyers is focusing on that event this year with a view to return to the heptathlon in 2013, her final season as a junior. Johnson-Thompson, meanwhile, has been named on the British Olympic team for the heptathlon and is competing at the World Juniors in two events to sharpen up for the Games.
And what a rehearsal it was! Having set a lifetime best of 6.51m in qualifying yesterday, the Liverpool teenager took an early lead in the final with a windy 6.57m. Just moments later it was bettered by Sawyers with a lifetime best of 6.67m. The legal wind (1.2m/s) meant it was also an improvement on her own world junior-leading mark.
On a night which saw lots of wind-assisted jumps, Johnson-Thompson flew out to an incredible 6.81m in the third roun. The 2.5m/s wind meant that it won’t count as a PB, but it gave her a huge lead in the competition – or at least it did until the final round when Germany’s Lena Malkus leapt 6.80m, also wind-assisted, but she had to settle for silver, splitting the British duo on the podium.
“When Lena did her big jump I couldn’t really see what distance it was – I had to ask an official,” said Johnson-Thompson, who earlier today smashed her PB in the heats of the 100m hurdles with 13.48. “What a relief to find out it was a 6.80m and not 6.82m, I don’t think I could have responded as my big jump had taken all adrenaline out of me.
“The hardest part of tonight was to compete for the gold medal not only against a team-mate, but against my room-mate,” she added. “One was going to beat the other: Jazmin is a really, really talented girl and one of my best friends, she should be really pleased with her performance tonight. It would have been great to have a 1-2, but I know she has the strength to come back from this – and she has another year as a junior ahead.”
Despite being the youngest of the medallists, Sawyers was disappointed with her bronze. “I know it’s a PB and I know I should be happy with a medal, but I won’t be satisfied until my best will be the absolute best,” said Sawyers, who won a silver medal in the bobsleigh at the Winter Youth Olympics.
With two women over 6.80m and six women over 6.50m, it was the highest-quality long jump competition of all-time in World Junior Championships history.
The women’s long jump was not the only high-quality final of the night. Both long sprint finals saw championship records set in races of unprecented depth at a junior level. Having won the 100m title, Bahamian Anthonique Strachan returned to win the 200m gold. Her time of 22.53 was not only a national junior record, but it smashed the championship record.
She won by more than half a second from American duo Olivia Expone and Dezerea Bryant, both clocking 23.15, while Britain’s world youth champion Desiree Henry ran 23.34 in fourth place after a 23.28 season’s best in the semis. Fellow 16-year-old Briton Dina Asher-Smith set a PB of 23.50 in seventh place.
The depth in the 400m was just as staggering as for the first time ever at the World Juniors five women broke 52 seconds. The winner, Ashley Spencer of the USA, smashed through the 51-second barrier to set a championship record of 50.50, putting her sixth on the world junior all-time list. Guyana’s Kadecia Baird set a Caribbean junior record of 51.04 in second while Erika Rucker of the USA clocked a PB of 51.10 in third.
Delano Williams may have missed out on achieving his goal of representing Great Britain at the Olympics, but the young sprinter from Turks & Caicos with dual citizenship struck gold in the 200m under the flag of his home nation. In a tight finish, he set a national junior record of 20.48 to hold off American pair Aaron Ernest (20.53) and Tyreek Hill (20.54), the latter being the pre-event favourite having clocked a time of 20.14 earlier this year.
In yet another final of outstanding quality, Britain’s European junior champion David Bolarinwa finished sixth and equalled his personal best of 20.69 – a time that would have been good enough for at least a silver medal in any of the 13 previous editions of the World Junior Championships.
Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodriguez struck gold in the heptathlon with a score of 5966, despite a strong challenge from Hungary’s Xenia Krizsan (5957). Emma Bucket was the top British finisher in 15th, setting a PB of 5383.
Elsewhere, USA’s Eric Futch won the 400m hurdles in 50.24. Keshorn Walcott won Trinidad & Tobago’s first ever global title in the javelin, taking gold with 78.64m. Andrei Churyla of Belarus won the high jump on countback with all three medallists clearing 2.24m. Earlier in the day, Colombia’s Eider Arévalo won gold in the men’s 10,000m walk in 40:09.74.
Following the failures of both senior British 4x100m teams at the recent European Championships, their younger counterparts had considerably more success in the heats of the sprint relay today. The British men, anchored by 100m champion Adam Gemili, won their heat in 39.09 – the second-fastest time ever by a British junior team and just 0.04 off the national junior record. With the potential addition of 200m finalist Bolarinwa, they could be set to go even quicker in the final.
The women’s team was missing both 200m finalists Henry and Smith, but still won their heat in 44.47 – the fastest time by a British junior quartet for 10 years and just 0.31 away from the long-standing UK junior record.