Briana Williams hunts 'rare' sprint double today

Observer writer

Saturday, July 14, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — Briana Williams, Jamaica's newest sprint sensation, will seek to become only the fourth woman and second Jamaican to win the sprint double at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships today when she lines up in the final of the 200m here at Tampere Stadium in Finland.

The 16-year-old Williams captured the first part of the double two days ago when she stunned a strong field to win the 100m in a swift 11.16 seconds, and will go into today's race set to start at 3:05 pm local time (7:05 am Jamaican time).

Jamaica will field athletes in three finals today. To start it off, Leonardo Ledgister ran a personal best 50.13 seconds and Malik James King won his semi-final heat of the men's 400m hurdles in 50.35 seconds and will line up in that final at 3:52 pm, while the men's 4x100m relay team will also be seeking to add to the already impressive medal haul.

Two more athletes will make their entry into the championships when they take part in preliminaries today, men's discus thrower Kai Chang and female triple jumper Lotavia Brown.

All eyes will be on Williams as she seeks to join Jamaica's Veronica Campbell Brown — who was the first woman to win the double in 2000 in Santiago de Chile, Bulgaria's Tezdzhan Naimova in China in 2006, and Anthonique Strachan of The Bahamas in Barcelona, Spain, in 2012.

After running three rounds of the 100m in two days, Williams was understandably cautious in both rounds of the 200m yesterday, but still managed to win both in 23.32 seconds and 23.41 seconds, respectively, the latter being the second fastest of the semi-finals behind American Lauren Rain Williams' 23.15 seconds.

There will be no chance of her going after a third gold as she did at the Carifta Games however, as, for the second-straight championships, the Jamaican women's relay team was disqualified in the first round.

The team of Kimone Shaw, Ackera Nugent, Fredricka McKenzie and Kemba Nelson had run 45.20 seconds for fourth in their heat, but had the eighth-fastest time before they were kicked out of the final for an infringement on the third handover.

On an afternoon of upsets and shocks, the defending champions USA, who had won the last seven gold medals, and China were also disqualified.

The men's team of Jhevaughn Matherson, Michael Stephens, Xavier Nairne and Orlando Bennett finished second in 39.68 seconds, beaten by Germany who ran a World Under-20-leading 39.13 seconds.

Ledgister, who only qualified as one of the fastest losers, and James-King are hoping to add to the medal count as they seek to make it three wins in a row for Jamaica in the men's 400m hurdles, after back to back wins by Jaheel Hyde.

Ledgister, who was third in a fast third semi-final heat, told reporters after the race he enjoyed the rainy and cooler-than-normal conditions, but admitted that running three straight days had sapped his energy.

Both Britany Anderson (13.37 seconds) and Amoi Brown (13.49 seconds), won their first-round heats in the 100m hurdles and will line up in the semi-finals, while Lamara Distin endured some nervy moments before confirming her qualification for the high jump finals set for tomorrow's final session.

After breezing through the first four heights, it took her two attempts to get over 1.82m before knocking off the bar three times at 1.84m.

She, however, made it in as the 12th best qualifier on the countback when two other jumpers who were left in the competition also failed at that height.

Both 800m runner Kemar Farquharson and triple jumper Owayne Owens failed to make it past the first round of their events.

Owens, who jumped a personal best 15.70m to win the JAAA National Junior Trials, arrived in Tampere at midnight Wednesday night without his bags and had to compete in spikes borrowed from another delegation.

He fouled his first two attempts before a legal jump of 14.79m.

Farquharson who looked well set early in the race and was challenging for the lead at 500m, faded to fourth in this first-round race, finishing in 1:50.76 minutes and missing an automatic qualifying spot by one place.

Farquharson was well placed in second place behind the Italian Simone Barontini with about 50 meters to go, but allowed a British and a Turkish runner to get past him.

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