Nine European U20 champions from Tallinn repeat in Nairobi
Nine athletes followed up their victories at the Tallinn 2021 European Athletics U20 Championships with victories on the global stage at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi which concluded on Sunday (22).
In doing so, these nine athletes have the unique distinction of scooping both titles in the same season. This oddity comes from the fact the World Athletics U20 Championships had to be postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic.
But the later staging of the championships surely played to the advantage of France’s 19-year-old Sasha Zhoya who was one of the outstanding athletes at the championships. After running under the world U20 record albeit with an illegal tailwind in Tallinn, Zhoya demolished the record he had threatened to surpass all season in Nairobi.
The multi-talented Frenchman initially revised the mark from 12.99 to 12.93 in the semifinals despite clipping some of the barriers which were raised 99 centimetres above the ground but Zhoya put together a seamless race in the final and was rewarded with his second gold medal of the season in 12.72, taking a 0.21 off his previous mark.
While the barriers are lower for the U20s than for the seniors, Zhoya’s time was the fastest ever recorded in the 110m hurdles across all age-groups.
There was very nearly a world U20 record in the men’s discus as Mykolas Alekna from Lithuania added the world U20 title to his European U20 title in style.
Alekna just fell short of the world U20 record of 70.13m with the 1.75kg U20 discus but his winning mark of 69.81m was a championship record and the second longest throw in history with the U20 discus.
Sweden’s Maja Askag overcame strong opposition to scoop both the long jump and triple jump titles at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Tallinn and she completed the same double on the global stage in Nairobi, becoming just the second athlete to win both titles at the same edition.
Her teammate Gabriel Wallmark also followed up his European U20 title with the world U20 title in the men’s triple jump. After breaking Christian Olsson’s Swedish U20 record in Tallinn with 16.39m, Wallmark extended his record to 16.43m for gold in Nairobi.
After an excellent campaign in Tallinn, the Finns enjoyed an even better championship in Nairobi with four gold medals to finish second on the medal table behind hosts Kenya. Saga Vanninen, who is still eligible for U20 competitions next year, led from start to finish to win her second major heptathlon title of the year while world U20 record-holder Silja Kosonen set a championship record of 71.64m to win the hammer title.
Jonathan Kapitolnik has achieved two notable firsts for Israel this season. After becoming the first Israeli to win a European U20 title in Tallinn last month, Kapitolnik achieved this same accolade at the World U20 Championships. The 18-year-old cleared a lifetime best of 2.26m to win gold by a whopping nine centimetres, the largest winning margin in championship history.
Competing as an authorised neutral athlete, Russia’s Violetta Ignatyeva also won the women’s discus title at both championships while European U20 400m hurdles champion Berke Akcam from Turkey was promoted from silver to gold in Nairobi after initial victory Oskar Edlund was disqualified for a trail leg infringement.