Athletics

7 Jamaicans in action as IAAF World U-20 Champs begin

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — There is an air of optimism in the Jamaican camp as the IAAF World Under-20 Championships gets under way today at the Tampere Stadium with seven Jamaicans in action on a day that is expected to be affected by rainy weather.

Medal hopefuls Michael Bentley in the men's 100m and Wayne Pinnock in the men's long jump will lead the way on today's opening sessions. Michael Stevens in the short sprint and Shakwon Coke in the long jump; female 800m runners Shaquena Foote and Chrissani May, as well as female 400m runner Stacey-Ann Williams are expected to set the pace for what is expected to be a successful campaign.

Several Jamaicans led by sprinter Christopher Taylor, who is a gold medal prospect in the 400m and who leads the world in the 200m and has the third best 100m time in the world, are ranked in the top 10 in their respective events here, giving hope that the Jamaicans will reap medals.

Twelve Jamaican athletes who are here are in the top 10 on the performance list in their disciplines so far — Deshawn Morris, Anthony Carpenter and Chantz Sawyers are also ranked in the to 10 in the men's 400m setting up what could be a gold medal-winning 4x400m team; Damion Thomas and Orlando Bennett are the top two in the 110m hurdles; Malik James-King in the 400m hurdles; Wayne Pinnock in the long jump; Kai Chang in the discus throw; Briana Williams in the women's 100m; Amoi Brown in the 100m hurdles; Shiann Salmon in the 400m hurdles and Lamara Distin in the high jump.

Head Coach Michael Dyke would not be drawn into making predictions when he spoke to the Jamaica Observer earlier in the week. “We are hoping that if everyone should perform to the best of their abilities and once that happens medals will come.”

Bentley and Stevens will be seeking to make smooth progress to tomorrow's semi-finals of the men's 100m when they line up in the first round in the morning session.

Bentley arrived in the camp on Sunday, from Lignano, Italy, where he had a pre competition camp under the eyes of his personal coach Stephen Francis and was looking fresh and ready to run fast.

“I hope to make it to the finals, it would be a great achievement as I have been working towards it,” said Bentley, who ran a personal best 10.30 seconds in the final of the 100m at the JAAA National Junior Championships three weeks ago.

Based on his training and having worked on his start, he thinks he will run even faster here.

Stevens also looked sharp in training on Sunday and will hope to go below the personal best 10.32 seconds he ran when he placed second behind Bentley in the Championships in Kingston.

Pinnock and his Kingston College teammate Shakwon Coke will take part in the long jump with an eye towards making it to the finals, also set for today.

Pinnock, who has had a great season with jumps of 7.99m at the Digicel Grand Prix and 7.96m to place third in the senior section of the JAAA Championships was quietly confident of his chances here.

“Physically, I am fine; mentally, I am fine,” he told the Observer on Sunday. “It's a great feeling knowing that I am here as I trained very hard for this with my coach Jeremy Delisser. I am prepared to go out there and get a personal best and make everyone proud.”

After beating his peers at every level this year, Pinnock stepped up to the senior level and placed third at the JAAA National Championships and this, he said, gave him even more motivation.

“Knowing that I am still a schoolboy and being able to compete with the big men told me what I can do,” he said.

Foote and May will be the first Jamaicans in action when they contest the first round of the half mile at 10:40 am local time (2:40 am Jamaican time) and Foote said she was ready to set yet another personal best.

The Petersfield High athlete who was a finalist in the 400m at last year's IAAF Under-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, and who won the 400m/800m double at the JAAA Championships, said she chose the longer event as that was her favourite race.

After lowering her lifetime best to 2 minutes 05.79 seconds, Foote said the plans were for her to progress through the rounds and into the finals.

“The 800m right now is my best event,” she said. “The 400m would be really, really hard, not saying the 800m will not be hard, but it is the best for me right now.

“I chose the 800m as I have been improving more in that event and, yes, I want to set another personal best, but I want to get to the finals,” she said.

After watching Tiffany James create history for Jamaica by winning the island's first ever global 400m gold medal two years ago in Poland, and Junelle Bromfield taking bronze, Stacey-Ann Williams, a member of the silver medal-winning 4x400m team, will be the only Jamaican in the event here.

The 19-year-old St Elizabeth Technical High School student has ambitions of getting an individual medal and said her experience fromtwo years ago will help her his week.

“I am ready,” she declared two days ago. “Two years ago was misfortune, and I have learned from it, I am older and wiser and just expecting the best and I am aiming at the final,” she said.

The misfortune she spoke of was running her leg of the 4x400m in lane, allowing the USA runner to overtake her easily.

Williams, who will take up a track and field scholarship at an American university next month, ran in the senior section at the JAAA Championships, clocking 53.49 seconds, is aiming to go below her personal best 52.62 seconds set in March 2017.

Being the only representative in the women's 400m and expected to extend the success from two years ago will not bother her. “I am feeling good and I expect to be in the final and I am not feeling any pressure at all.”

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