Seema Antil retains her status

IF track and field is all about breaking barriers, the ninth edition of the World junior athletics championships had enough of that to provide a highly satisfying fare to the Jamaican fans at Kingston.

With three world records bettered and two more world bests established, not to speak of several championship records and continental marks set, these were by far the best championships in more than a decade. Only 1988 had produced a larger number of world junior records, four, through the years in this biennial meet that is some sort of a miniature stage for future world and Olympic champions to perform.

Soon we will be hearing more about Carolina Kluft, Lashinda Demus, Darrel Brown, Hillary Chenonge and Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam, to name just a few of the stars who made the Kingston meet a most enjoyable one. After all, we had first heard of Haile Gebrselassie, Ato Boldon and Daniel Komen through the World juniors only.

The US topped the medals tally, with eight gold, five silver and seven bronze. The Americans, like the last time in Santiago, Chile, could not show their prowess in sprints. But unlike last time, when the US shockingly had no runner in the men's 100m final, there were two Americans in the last eight this time. They did not win the gold, though, with two Trinidadians, Darrel Brown and Marc Burns finishing one-two. American Willie Hordge was third.

The enlarged American presence, or for that matter the full-strength European participation had much to do with the fact that unlike last time this was not end of the season. And again, unlike last time, no one was coming here having gone through the grind of an Olympics.

To the record-breakers now. Carolina Kluft bettered one of the oldest marks in the books, that in the demanding energy-sapping heptathlon. Kluft, defending her title, had two personal bests on the opening day, in the 100m hurdles and high jump, the latter with a junior national record of 1.92m.

Down to the last event on the second day, the 800 metres, after having posted another personal best in the javelin, the Swedish girl had to run 2:13.88 or quicker to snatch the world record. She did that in style, raising another personal best of 2:13.55 for a total of 6470 points. The previous mark stood in the name of GDR's Sybille Thiel who set it in the Austrian town of Schwechat while winning the European junior title in 1983.

Kluft said that she had not planned to go after the world record. "I didn't know anything about it until after the first day. I came here to take the gold medal and improve my personal record," she said. She had a personal best of 6274 before coming to Kingston.

Lashinda Demus, unlike Kluft, had come into these championships aiming for the world record. She had clocked a world best of 54.85 while winning the American collegiate championships in May. That mark was yet to be ratified as a world junior record, but now, she clocked a 54.70 after a keen battle with two Jamaicans, Melanie Walker and Camille Robinson and team-mate Tiffany Ross.

"We wanted to make it gold and silver but Tiffany couldn't beat the Jamaicans," said Demus. Ross could manage only the fourth place behind Walker and Robinson, the two Jamaicans naturally getting all the crowd support.

"This is just fantastic. It feels so good. Coming into these championships, I wanted to break the world record. No matter I would better it, I just wanted to do it. And to tell you the truth 54.70 is exactly the time I had hoped for. I had set myself a reachable goal, not too far from my PB but still an excellent time," said the girl from South Carolina. Demus does not alternate take-off legs and thus has to adjust stride pattern nearing hurdles.

Continuing the American domination in sprint relays, the US men's quartet of Ashton Collins, Wes Felix, Ivory Williams and Willie Hordge became the first to dip under 39 seconds, thus setting a World junior record. They clocked 38.92, bettering the mark of 39.00 set by Neal Jessie, Allen Franklin, Stanley Blalock and Dennis Mitchell back in 1983.

"We were very confident. We were all aiming for gold because we know we have the talent," said Felix, showing a touch of American brashness.

But there was no doubting the class of the Americans against a bunch of tough rivals from Trinidad and Jamaica. The crowd, obviously, was for the Caribbeans, but all the shouting and whistling brought the best out of the Americans as well.

"I am proud of these boys," said former world record holder Leroy Burrell, watching the action from the stands. "They have just ensured that US sprinting carries on for years to come. They are the future of the sport in our country."

Two other marks which were world junior bests, but both of which will come up for ratification only later, were in men's throws. Croatia's Edis Elkasevic putted the shot to a distance of 21.47 metres to register a new mark, while Chinese Wu Tao threw the disc to 64.51m for another record. Both were with new, lighter implements (6kg shot, 1.75kg disc), ordered by the IAAF in junior competitions since January. Both, if not bettered till December 31 this year, will become world junior records.

Darrel Brown in the 100m, Hillary Chenonge of Kenya in the 5000m, Louis van Zyle of South Africa in the 400m hurdles, apart from the US sprint relay quartet, were the championship record breakers in the men's section. In the women's, the meet record-setters, apart from Demus and Kluft, were Floe Kuhnert of Germany in pole vault, Ivana Brkjacic of Croatia in hammer and Jamaica in the 4x100m relay.

As was to be expected, Kenya and Ethiopia dominated the middle distance and long distance events in both sections, with only Morocco's Yassine Bensghir breaking the monopoly by claiming the men's metric mile gold.

Most impressive among the Ethiopian winners were Meseret Defar, silver winner in the 5000 last time, who claimed the 3000-5000 double this time, and Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam, who took the bronze in the men's 5000 metres and then won the 10,000 metres.

The Kenyans swept the 800 golds in both sections, through Alex Kipchirchir and Janeth Jepkosgei, while settling for the men's 5000 gold, through Chenonge who won after a titanic battle with Ethiopians Markos Geneti and Gebremariam. Of course, there could be no denying the Kenyans in the 3000m steeplechase, with Michael Kipyego and David Kirwa making it a one-two for their country.

The results:

Men: 100m: 1. Darrel Brown (Tri) 10.09, 2. Marc Burns (Tri) 10.18, 3. Willie Hordge (USA) 10.36; 200m: 1. Usain Bolt (Jam) 20.61, 2. Brendan Christian (Ant) 20.74, 3. Wes Felix (USA) 20.82; 400m: 1. Darold Williamson (USA) 45.37, 2. Jonathan Fortenberry (USA) 45.73, 3. Jermaine Gonzales (Jam) 45.84; 800m: 1. Alex Kipchichir (Ken) 1:46.59, 2. Amer Salem Al-Badri (Qat) 1:46.63, 3. David Fiegen (Lux) 1:46.66; 1500m: 1. Yassine Bensghir (Mar) 3:40.72, 2. Abdulrahman Suleiman (Qat) 3:41.72, 3. Samwel Mwera (Tan) 3:41.75; 5000m: 1. Hillary Chenonge (Ken) 13:28.30, 2. Markos Geneti (Eth) 13:28.83, 3. Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam (Eth) 13:29.13; 10,000m: 1. Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam (Eth) 29:02.71, 2. Sileshi Sihine (Eth) 29:03.74, 3. Solomon Bushendich (Ken) 29:05.96; 3000m steeplechase: 1. Michael Kipyego (Ken) 8:29.54, 2. David Kirwa (Ken) 8:31.44, 3. Ali Kamal Abubaker (Qat) 8:36.67; 110m hurdles: 1. Antwon Hicks (USA) 13.42, 2. Shi Dongpeng (Chn) 13.58, 3. Shamar Sands (Bah) 13.67; 400m hurdles: Louis van Zyl (RSA) 48.89, 2. Kenneth Ferguson (USA) 49.38, 3. Bershawn Jackson (USA) 50.00; high jump: 1. Andra Manson (USA) 2.31, 2. Zhu Wannan (Chn) 2.23, 3. Jermaine Mason (Jam) 2.21; pole vault: 1. Maksym Mazuryk (Ukr) 5.55, 2. Vladyslav Revenko (Ukr) 5.55, 3. Vincent Favretto (Fra) 5.40; long jump: 1. Ibrahim Abdulla Al-Waleed (Qat) 7.99, 2. Fabrice Lapierre (Aus) 7.74, 3. Trevell Quinley (USA) 7.71; triple jump: 1. David Giralt (Cub) 16.68, 2. Li Yanxi (Chn) 16.66, 3. Aleksandr Sergeyev (Rus) 16.55; shot put: 1. Edis Elkasevic (Cro) 21.47, 2. Sean Shields (USA) 20.54, 3. Mika Vasara (Fin) 20.50; discus: 1. Wu Tao (Chn) 64.51, 2. Dmitriy Sivako (Blr) 62.00, 3. Michal Hodun (Pol) 61.74; hammer: 1. Werner Smit (RSA) 76.43, 2. Mohamed Al-Zinkawi (Kuw) 73.69, 3. Aliaksandr Kazulka (Blr) 72.72; javelin: 1. Igor Janik (Pol) 74.16, 2. Vladislav Shkurlatov (Rus) 74.09, 3. Jung Sang-Jin (Kor) 73.99; decathlon: 1. Leonid Andreev (Uzb) 7693 pts, 2. Nadir El Fassi (Fra) 7677, 3. Mikko Halvari (Fin) 7587; 4x100m relay: 1. USA 38.92 (World junior record), 2. Jamaica 39.15, 3. Trinidad and Tobago 39.17; 4x400m relay: 1. USA 3:03.71, 2. Jamaica 3:04.06, 3. Japan 3:05.80; 10,000m walk: 1. Vladimir Kanyakin (Rus) 41:41.40, 2. Xu Xingde (Chn) 41:44.00, 3. Lu Ronghua (Chn) 41:46.07.

Women: 100m: 1. Lauryn Williams (USA) 11.33, 2. Simone Facey (Jam) 11.43, 3. Marshevet Hooker (USA) 11.48; 200m: 1. Vernicha James (Gbr) 22.93, 2. Anneisha McLaughlin (Jam) 22.94, 3. Sanya Richards (USA) 23.09; 400m: 1. Monique Henderson (USA) 51.10, 2. Sanya Richards (USA) 51.49, 3. Sheryl Morgan (Jam) 52.61; 800m: 1. Janeth Jepkosgei (Ken) 2:00.80, 2. Lucia Klocova (Svk) 2:01.73, 3. Paula de Azevedo (Bra) 2:03.81; 1500m: 1. Viola Kibiwot (Ken) 4:12.57, 2. Berhane Herpassa (Eth) 4:13.59, 3. Olesya Syreva (Rus) 4:14.32; 3000m: 1. Meseret Defar (Eth) 9:12.61, 2. Mariem Al Aouli Selsouli (Mar) 9:16.28, 3. Olesya Syreva (Rus) 9:16.58; 5000m: 1. Meseret Defar (Eth) 15:54.94, 2. Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth) 15:55.99, 3. Vivian Cheruiyot (Ken) 15:56.04; 100m hurdles: 1. Anay Tejeda (Cub) 12.81, 2. Agnieszka Frankowska (Pol) 13.16, 3. Tina Klein (Ger) 13.23; 400m hurdles: 1. Lashinda Demus (USA) 54.70, 2. Melanie Walker (Jam) 56.03, 3. Camille Robinson (Jam) 56.14; high jump: 1. Blanka Vlasic (Cro) 1.96, 2. Anna Ksok (Pol) 1.87, 3. Petrina Price (Aus) 1.87; pole vault; 1. Floe Kuhnert (Ger) 4.40, 2. Yuliya Golubchikova (Rus) 4.30, 3. Nataliya Belinskaya (Rus) 4.20; long jump: 1. Adina Anton (Rom) 6.46, 2. Wang Lina (Chn) 6.36, 3. Esther Aghatise (Ngr) 6.34; triple jump: 1. Mabel Gay (Cub) 14.09, 2. Arianna Martinez (Cub) 13.74, 3. Costa Keila da Silva (Bra) 13.70; shot put; 1. Valerie Adams (Nzl) 17.73, 2. Zhang Ying (Chn) 16.76, 3. Laura Gerraughty (USA) 16.62; discus: 1. Ma Xuejun (Chn) 58.85, 2. Xu Shaoyang (Chn) 57.87, 3. Seema Antil (Ind) 55.83; hammer: 1. Ivana Brkjacic (Cro) 65.39, 2. Martina Danisova (Svk) 63.91, 3. Yuliya Rozenfeld (Rus) 60.83; javelin: 1 Linda Brivule (Lat) 53.35, 2. Ilze Gribule (Lat) 54.16, 3. Urszula Jasinska (Pol) 54.06; heptathlon: 1. Carolina Kluft (Swe) 6470 pts (World junior record), 2. Olga Alekseyeva (Kaz) 5727, 3. Olga Levenkova (Rus) 5712; 4x100m relay: 1. Jamaica 43.40, 2. USA 43.66, 3. Great Britain and Northern Ireland 44.22; 4x400m relay: 1. USA 3:29.95, 2. Great Britain and Northern Ireland 3:30.46, 3. Russia 3:30.72; 10,000m walk: 1. Fumi Mitsumura (Jpn) 46:01.51, 2. Liu Siqi (Chn) 46:07.15, 3. Maryna Tsikhanava (Blr) 46:14.67.

A MEDAL of better hue than the bronze might have been expected of Seema Antil in the women's discus event of the World junior athletic championships, but the Haryana girl was not too dismayed by her eventual achievement, considering a shoulder injury that had been bothering her since January this year.

"She was under pressure to perform," said coach J. S. Saini on his return to New Delhi after the best performance ever by an Indian team in a World meet. Apart from Seema's bronze, at 55.83m, the US-based Vikas Gowda made two finals, shot put and discus, and long jumper Amrit Pal Singh also made the final. Last time, at Santiago de Chile, Seema and discus thrower K.K. Sharma had made the final.

Seema, stripped of the gold she won last time following a doping violation, has retained her status as the only Indian athlete, male or female, senior or junior, to have won a medal in a global meet.

Going into these championships as the second-ranked athlete in the world, behind Chinese Xu Shaoyang (59.39m), Seema (58.63m) was tipped to reach around the 58-plus mark in the final at Kingston, but that did not happen.

"She had the strength, the build and the technique, but somehow she could not put it all into one throw," said Mr. Saini.

It was not Xu Shaoyang who took the gold, but her 17-year-old team-mate Ma Xuejun who reached 58.85 for a personal best. Xu Shaoyang, who finished second behind Seema last time and later won the Asian title, claimed the silver at 57.87m.

Seema is now aiming for a mark around 62 metres as she gears up for the Asian Games in Busan as the understudy to National record-holder Neelam Jaswant Singh.

In his maiden appearance in National colours, Gowda managed the eighth and 12th positions in shot put and discus respectively, with marks of 19.30m and 54.46m. With an 18.29, National champion Ranvijay Singh could not progress from the qualifying rounds of the shot put event. Mr. Saini put it down to travel fatigue since Ranvijay had to compete the day after the team reached Kingston after a tiring flight from Delhi.

Amrit Pal Singh had a best of 7.56m in long jump for the fifth place, a creditable achievement. Two other Indians, high hurdler Nau Nidh Singh and intermediate hurdler P. Shankar disappointed, getting eliminated in first-round heats.