Athletics

Taylor stunned!

But Sawyers, Salmon earn podium places

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 14, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — Jamaica won multiple medals in the men's 400m at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships for the first time ever as Christopher Taylor and Chantz Sawyers won silver and bronze, respectively, in the one-lap event on yesterday's fourth day of the 17th staging of the event, in Tampere, Finland.

Belgium's impressive Jonathon Sacoor produced back-to-back National Junior Records as he ran a well-paced 45.03 seconds to reel in the fast-starting Taylor, the junior world leader, and proved his big win in the semi-finals on Thursday was no fluke.

The silver and bronze in the men's 400m brought to five the number of medals won by Jamaicans in the one-lap race after Michael McDonald's first-ever international 400m win in Lisbon in 1994, Branson Simpson's silver in Chile in 2000 and Germaine Gonzales' bronze in Kingston two years later.

Under rainy and cool conditions, Shiann Salmon also added her name to the rich Jamaican tradition in the women's 400m hurdles, taking a well-earned silver medal as Jamaica raced to seven overall and lay third in the medals table, trailing only Kenya and Great Britain.

It was a tough day as the afternoon session was held up for just under 45 minutes due to heavy rains, but the young athletes continued to produce.

Jamaica now boast two gold medals, three silver and two bronze, as Kenya lead with four gold medals and a bronze followed by Great Britain with three gold, a silver and a bronze.

Japan are next with two gold, two silver and a bronze, with South Africa in fifth position with two gold medals.

Despite his reticence in running the 400m instead of the 200m, Taylor came into the event as the big favourite and earlier in the week at the IAAF press conference said winning was the only thing on his mind, regardless of which event he would be contesting.

Nothing in the first two rounds suggested that Taylor would not be adding a second gold medal in the event as he got off to a blazing fast start and was up on to the shoulder of the two runners immediately in front of him and came into the home straight all by himself.

Sacoor was in fourth position at the time and then made his move with about 80 metres to go and caught the tiring Taylor with about 25 metres to go and swept past him to the line for a fine victory.

Taylor was timed in 45.38 seconds and Sawyers in 45.89 seconds, his first major medal for Jamaica since he made his debut last year at the Pan-American Games.

After a long season Sawyers said the medal was worth it. “This is very satisfactory for me. I have been running since January and that was probably why during the rounds I was getting worn out but I came out here and got a medal and that was the biggest plan that I had.”

Sawyers admitted that the race was not memorable from the standpoint of “it wasn't the best organised race that I have ever run. I did not get out as hard as I can and I relaxed too much on the back stretch but I came home hard.”

Salmon's silver was the 12th in the event by a Jamaican and the athlete who will be heading to the University of Texas next month was over joyed with her effort running 56.11 seconds in less than ideal settings.

“I am silver medallist and that means I am among the very best juniors,” she said. “It was a very difficult race because this was the toughest test I had here all week, but I am so glad that I came through and won the silver this evening.”

The race was billed as one of the best of the afternoon with Salmon and pre-championships favourite and World Under-18 champion Zeney Van Der Walt expected to battle to the line for the gold and it lived up to expectations.

Salmon did most of the early pacing and led through the first seven hurdles before the South African made her move and caught the Jamaican just after the final barrier and raced away for the win in 55.34 seconds with Switzerland's Yasmin Giger taking third in a season's best 56.98 seconds.

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