Athletics

Great things expected as Christopher Taylor bows into action

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — Two of Jamaica's top prospects for gold medals, quarter-miler Christopher Taylor and sprint hurdler Damion Thomas, will make their highly anticipated first appearances on the track on today's second day of the 16th IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.

Today will be a busy one for the Jamaicans after yesterday's start, with eight more competitors bowing into action in the morning session followed by another busy afternoon.

Taylor, who is the World Junior leader in the 400m, and joint World Junior World Record holder Thomas, both of whom failed to deliver two years ago in Bydgoszcz, Poland, get their chance to make amends this week.

Also, Orlando Bennett, the third-fastest ever, will line up in the first round of the 110m hurdles with hopes of qualifying for the afternoon's semis, while female intermediate hurdlers Shiann Salmon and Sanique Walker, both medal threats, will also run their opening rounds.

Exciting 16-year-old sprinter Briana Williams and Okera Myrie will also start their campaigns for medals in the female 100m event.

Taylor, who is unbeaten over any distance this season, was in a no-nonsense mood at Monday's IAAF press conference and told reporters he had been looking forward to these championships all, year as he sought to exorcise the ghosts of 2016 in Poland when he failed to get past the second round.

His National Junior Record 44.88 seconds set while winning the JAAA National Senior Championships, is the World Junior Leading mark, the only runner under 45.00 seconds, while University of Florida's Sawyers, who won at the Junior Trials, ran his lifetime best 45.40 seconds, in March this year.

Like Taylor, Thomas has a score to settle from Poland two years ago, when he crashed into the first hurdle and was out of the race despite a great season up to then.

The Louisiana State University freshman who was second in the NCAA Division One outdoors championships, equalled the World Junior record 12.99 seconds at the Jamaican championships and told the Jamaica Observer on Sunday he had some areas in his race that still needed to be fixed.

“I have not really set a time in my mind that I know I can run... but I broke down that 12.99 (seconds) in places where I could improve on, and I know if I can improve those places I can run faster,” he said.

Thomas said his start was off as the starter's gun was not the one he was used to, and since then he has used a simulator from an app to train with. “I hit a few hurdles towards the end of the race — eight, nine and 10, and if I can clean that up and the reaction at the start, I will run faster,” he added.

Bennett was the revelation of the championships three weeks ago as he came from virtually nowhere to run 13.00 seconds, third-fastest ever, beating World Youth Champion and teammate Dejour Russell in the process and so will be a medal prospect here.

Walker had a taste of international success last year when she was second at the IAAF World Under-18 championships in Nairobi, Kenya, and along with Salmon should advance to the final set for Friday afternoon.

Salmon, who was named female team captain on Sunday, is the second-ranked athlete in the event here with her 55.78 seconds, behind only South Africa's Zeney Van Der Walt's 55.05 seconds. Walker is not that far off with 57.19 seconds.

Williams grabbed attention earlier this year when she set the new 15-year-old age group World Record, running 11.13 seconds, and on time is the second-fastest here.

She won the Under-17 sprint double and the Austin Sealey Award at the CARIFTA Games in May, and since then has raced against senior competitors and has managed to hold her own.

“I feel confident coming in here with the second-best time, and I know that I will do well,” the Florida-based Williams told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“I am hoping for personal bests in both events,” she said, pointing at sub-11.00 seconds in the 100m and sub- 23 seconds in the longer sprint.

— Paul Reid

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