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Alekna threatens world U20 discus record with 69.81m in Nairobi

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Lithuania’s Mykolas Alekna won his second major title of the season in the discus on the last day of competition at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday (22) and he approached the world U20 record in the process.

Alekna won the European U20 title in Tallinn last month with 68.00m but in the rarefied conditions in Nairobi, the 18-year-old improved to an unassailable 69.81m with his first throw of the final.

This mark was not only a championship record but it also represented the second longest throw in history with the U20 1.75kg implement, bettered only by Ukraine’s Mykyta Nesterenko whose world U20 record of 70.13m has stood since 2008.

After a prodigious opener, Alekna couldn’t improve on that first round throw but he amassed a gleaming series. Four of his five valid throws - 69.81m, 68.52m, 67.67m, 67.10m - would have sufficed for the title ahead of Jamaica’s Ralford Mullings’ who set a lifetime best of 66.68m to win silver.

While Alekna won his second major title of the season, Sweden’s Maja Askag brought her tally up to four gold medals after repeating the horizontal jump double which she achieved last month at the European U20 Championships in Tallinn.

After winning the long jump title in Tallinn with a wind-aided 6.80m, Askag won this title in Nairobi with a wind-legal lifetime best of 6.60m to win by one centimetre from India’s Shaili Singh. 

Askag, who also jumped 13.75m to win the triple jump final on Friday, became only the second athlete in championship history to win both titles after Russia’s Yelena Lysak all the way back in 1994. 

Her teammate Gabriel Wallmark also won the men’s triple jump final with a national U20 record of 16.43m and there was initially another gold medal for Sweden in the 400m hurdles before Oskar Edlund incurred the wrath of the judges for a trail leg infringement.

With Edlund disqualified, the title was passed from Sweden to Turkey with Berke Akcam adding the world U20 title to his European U20 title in a lifetime best of 49.38 ahead of neutral athlete Denis Novoseltsev in 49.62.

There was also a fourth gold medal of the championships for Finland as Heidi Salminen won the women’s 400m hurdles in a lifetime best of 56.94 ahead of France’s Ludivine Aubert in 57.16. 

With four titles across the five days, Finland were the leading European nation in Nairobi and their quartet of titles takes their overall tally of gold medals from the World U20 Championships up from eight to 12.

Elsewhere on the last day of the championships, neutral athlete Natalya Spiridinova cleared a lifetime best of 1.91m to win the high jump title and the Polish 4x100m quartet further improved their European U20 record to 38.90 to win bronze in a race won by South Africa in a world U20 record of 38.51.

This marked a significant improvement in fortunes for a near-identical Polish quartet who missed out on the medals in fourth at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Tallinn last month.

Full results here.




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