India’s long wait for a track gold at an IAAF World Championships is over. Hima Das, who virtually went into the final as the top seed, lived up to that billing taking the women’s 400m gold at the World under-20 athletics championships at Tampere, Finland, on Thursday.
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The 18-year-old from Assam, who had clocked the fastest times in the two earlier rounds at Tampere, once again produced a strong finish to bring the historic gold in 51.46s.
She was slightly behind around the 300m but as the others appeared to fade away, Hima – whose personal best stands at 51.13s, proved that she had enough gas in the tank to take the medal that mattered.
Two years ago, when javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra stunned the country by winning the under-20 World in Poland, nobody had an inkling that a track gold was just one edition away.
But Hima is no stranger to the big stage. Around this time last year, she took the fifth spot in the 200m at the Youth Worlds in Nairobi. And she was sixth in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April.
Kerala’s junior national record holder M. Sreeshankar, who went into the men’s long jump as the world’s fourth best junior jumper this year with his personal best 7.99m, finished sixth on Wednesday night with 7.75m which came in his second attempt. Japan’s Yuki Hashioka won the gold with 8.03m and he was the only jumper to cross 8m. Cuban Maikal Y. Vidal, the world leader, took the silver with 7.94m.
Later, Indonesia’s Lalu Muhammed Zohri pulled off a huge surprise, winning the men’s 100m for his country’s first-ever gold at the under-20 Worlds. Running in the eighth lane, Lalu, also the Asian junior champion, clocked 10.18s and emerged as the fastest man.