By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, TrackAlerts.com
Despite its popularity worldwide, track and field is not among the top ten ranked sports of Americans. The staging of the World Junior Championships in Eugene Oregon, the first ever on American soil could be a testament of their enthusiasm for the sport.
A few years ago super star Allyson Felix bemoaned the fact that she will not get a chance to compete in front of her home crowd because the authorities were not passionate enough in bidding to host a major championship in the near future. Allyson Felix was too young when the Atlanta Olympics was held in 1996. Thankfully, the generation after Felix will now experience the euphoria she envisaged years ago.
The Americans are experts at hosting major sporting events with great flair and excitement, the N.F.L Super Bowl, N.B.A and the New York and Prefontaine Diamond League events are excellent productions. The World Junior Championships in Eugene will benefit from this expertise and could surpass the previous editions and become the best ever. Many persons are of this view because of the exciting talent spread across all disciplines packaged in six days of non-stop action fromJuly 22-27, 2014.
The beauty of this championship could be the unpredictability and medal distribution in some key events. Let us look at some selected events and their possible match-ups and excitement.
This event is without a shadow of doubt the most highly anticipated race in many years. It features the current junior world record holder Trayvon Bromell (9.97) of the United States. He exploded unto the scene this year with some cracking times in March, 10.02 (28.3.2014) and equaling the then junior world record of 10.01 the next day.
The 18-year-old record-breaking athlete who prefers to run in shorts rather than tights has his sights set on erasing the championship record (10.05) set by Great Britain’s Adam Gemili in 2012. Another gifted sprinter expected to challenge for the undisputed title of 100m World Junior Champion is Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu. He has world championship experience having competed in the 2013 Moscow games and was previously one of the joint record holders at 10.01 before Trayvon Bromell took over sole ownership on June 14, 2014 with a blistering run.
The Caribbean sprinters are not intimidated by the impressive credentials of their opponents and will be coming to taste success and carve their names in history. Newly crowned CARIFTA 100m champion Jevaughn Minzie of Jamaica with a personal best of 10.16 will be seeking to medal in this event. He is confident and resolute of completing his final year as a junior in glory.
Another outstanding prospect if fit is Anguilla’s Zharnell Hughes the 100m champion at Jamaica’s 2014 Boys & Girls championships. He sped to a championship record and personal best 10.12 in March but picked up a leg injury that sidelined him for months and is now coming back to his best after a long break. He is arguably the finest junior sprinter in the Caribbean and victory in this event will gain him worldwide recognition.
Another Caribbean sprinter worth mentioning despite having an indifferent year so far is Jamaica’s Michael O’Hara. He is a championship performer having claimed the 200m World Youth Championship title last year and has a personal best of 10.19 over 100m. If he can overcome his starting concerns, he should run a fantastic race. The highly rated Jonathan Farinha of Trinidad & Tobago should add punch to an already fascinating field. The Eugene track is renowned for fast times and I suspect all finalists could achieve personal bests when the official results are posted on the screen. It will be an amazing feat to see a junior athlete breaking ten seconds anywhere in the world.
The women’s 100m could also turn out to be one of the races of the championships in light of some very fast young women on show. Some persons are of the view that the championship record (11.12) held by Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown could be challenged on this fast track. One of the aspirants to that elite title could be the impressive American champion Kaylin Whitney who ran 11.10 on the same Eugene track hosting the championship. Whitney’s teammate Ariana Washington, the 2013 World Youth Championships silver medallist, though not as fast is a consistent performer and will be vying for podium finish.
The slender and silky smooth sprinter from Ecuador Angela Tenorio will have other ideas and will be coming to revenge her loss in this event at the World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine last year. Tenorio, has shown vast improvement since that time and seems ready to win a different colour medal on the bigger stage this year. Jamaica’s Jonielle Smith will be carrying the hopes of a nation looking for its next sprint queen.
She is the reigning CARIFTA champion and while she is not one of the favourites for the event, should nevertheless give a creditable showing. One of her immediate targets should be lowering her personal best of 11.32 seconds. Two of Europe’s top sprinters in Sweden’s Irene Ekelund and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, have already competed at the senior level with Ekelund in the Diamond League and Asher-Smith at the 2013 World Championships, some observers believe those experiences could prove crucial in Eugene.