Prodigious teenager Jessica Judd wins silver in the 800m at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona
For all its strength and depth in the event over the past 20 years, Britain had never before won a medal in the women’s 800m at the IAAF World Junior Championships. But tonight in Barcelona, Jessica Judd ended that drought by taking silver with a personal best to boot.
Judd has long been one of the most prodigious middle-distance talents in the country and she underlined that potential with her bronze medal at the World Youth Championships last year. As recently as three years ago she caused something of a surprise too when she finished third at the senior UK Championships, beating a host of older and more experienced athletes.
This evening in the Montjuic Stadium, she was still one of the youngest in the field but was at least competing within her age group. She did not have it easy though and was up against 2:00.37 performer Anastasiya Tkachuk of Ukraine and world youth champion Ajee Wilson of the USA.
Iceland’s Aníta Hinriksdóttir led at half way in a speedy 58.29. The pace proved too hot for some and Tkatchuk and Britain’s Emily Dudgeon faded in the final stages, but Judd and Wilson had broken free and were locked in their own personal battle. Wilson gained the edge in the home straight as Judd fought back and almost caught her on the line, but ultimately missed out by 0.05.
Both athletes set personal bests – Wilson winning in 2:00.91 from Judd’s 2:00.96. Judd’s performance is the fastest time in the world this year by a youth (under-18) athlete and ranks her at eighth on the world youth all-time list. Morocco’s Manal El Bahraoui came through for the bronze in 2:03.09 as Dudgeon clocked 2:04.68 in sixth.
“I am really emotional, I didn’t expect to get a silver,” said Judd, who will be young enough to compete at the next World Juniors in 2014. “I gave it absolutely all I had tonight, and with 100m to go I thought I was going to win the gold. I just didn’t quite have the reaction, but I’m still so happy.
“To win a medal like I did takes a lot of guts; I got boxed quite badly the first time on the home straight, I got spiked, but I stepped in and kicked in the last 200m – unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it going until the end.
“[To lose the gold] in Lille was soul-destroying,” added Judd of her experience at last year’s World Youth Championships. “To lead all race and see the girls pass you is hard to come back from. Tonight Ajee was always there, she didn’t just zip past, she just had an extra kick I didn’t have.
“I am only 17 – the plan is to go to the World Juniors in two years in America and win the gold there.”
Judd’s silver completes a full set of medals for Britain so far at this year’s World Juniors, following Adam Gemili’s 100m gold yesterday and Emelia Gorecka’s 3000m bronze on day one. Britain currently sits fifth on the medals table behind Ethiopia, Kenya, USA and Russia.
The highest-quality event of the evening was the men’s 400m. Luguelin Santos, one of the revelations of the season over the one-lap sprint, was the huge favourite and he did not disappoint. The 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic led coming into the home straight and just when it looked as though he was about to challenged by USA’s Arman Hall, Santos moved up a gear and pulled clear.
Santos crossed the line a comfortable winner in 44.86. Never before at the World Juniors had all three 400m medallists dipped under 45.60, but the top four did so in tonight’s final. Hall clocked a PB of 45.39 to take silver, while bronze was shared between Australia’s Steven Solomon and USA’s Aldrich Bailey, both running 45.52.
Had anyone tuned into the coverage during the 110m hurdles, they would have been forgiven for thinking that Dayron Robles had hopped into a time machine and resurrected his junior career. But it was not the world record-holder who was in action in Barcelona, just a lookalike – Yordin O’Farrill of Cuba. Wearing an almost medallion and pair of glasses as his more established compatriot, O’Farrill was a class apart in the sprint hurdles, pulling away after a few barriers to take gold in a championship record of 13.18.
Britain’s James Gladman was in contention at half way, but eventually missed out on a medal in fourth with 13.37 as it took an Oceanian junior record (13.27) and French junior record (13.29) to beat him with Nicholas Hough and Wilhem Belocian taking silver and bronze respectively.
Jamaica’s sprint prowess has long been known, but the Caribbean nation is now beginning to make a name for itself in the discus. One year after winning world youth gold, Fedrick Dacres won the world junior discus title with a heave of 62.80m. He was pushed all the way by Poland’s Wojciech Praczyk, who led in round one with 62.66m and came within five centimetres of Dacres’ winning mark in the final round, but he had to make do with silver. South Africa’s Gerhard de Beer took bronze (61.57m) as Britain’s Nick percy was eighth (57.79m).
The most exciting event of the night was the women’s triple jump. Liuba Zaldivar of Cuba took an early lead with 13.62m, but Spain’s Ana Peleteiro bettered it with 13.64m. The same thing happened in round two as Zaldivar leapt 13.90m, only to be bettered by Peleteiro’s 13.96m. Then in round three, the 16-year-old Spaniard bounded out to a European youth record of 14.17m.
But the competition was not over there as Lithuania’s Dovilé Dzindzaletaité matched the leading mark with 14.17m in round five. None of the medallists improved in the final round and Peleteiro held on to the gold by virtue of a better count-back record, winning the host’s first medal of the championships.
With Kenya having won all four women’s steeplechase titles in World Junior history to date, Daisy Jepkemei maintained that record as she smashed her personal best with 9:47.22 to take gold ahead of Ethiopia’s Tejinesh Gebisa (9:50.51) and Kenya’s Stella Rutto (9:50.58). After running with the leaders over the first kilometre, Britain’s Pipp Woolven faded to ninth, clocking 10:27.95.
Qatar’s Hamza Driouch was the class act in the men’s 1500m and he proved it with a run-away victory. The 17-year-old is a 3:33 man at best, but tonight he found 3:39.04 easily enough for gold, winning by more than a second from Kenya’s Hillary Ngetich (3:40.39) and Morocco’s Abdelhadi Labali (3:40.60).
Thiago Da Silva won Brazil’s first global title in the men’s pole vault, winning gold with a national junior record of 5.55m. He won on countback as all three medallists cleared the same height with Croatia’s Ivan Horvat taking silver and Canada’s Shawnacy Barber winning bronze.