Australian athletes reached six A finals, posted four PBs, set one national record and led the qualifiers in two events on an inspirational night of action on day two of the athletics programme at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.
Leading the way was 17-year-old Queenslander Trae Willams, who defied a pre-raceranking of 16th best on season’s best times to record a stunning new personal best of 10.51 and head the qualifiers going into Saturday’s A final.
Making a blistering start, the muscular Williams, whose previous 100m best was 10.75 was never headed to take an emphatic heat four win by 0.07 from Zambia’s Sydney Siame.
With pre-event favourite Raheem Chambers of Jamaica stretchered off the track after pulling up sharply with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in the latter stages of his heat two win the Australian bolter now knows he has a great opportunity to strike gold.
“I knew if I got my start right and executed the race well I would be able to get through,” said Williams. “I wasn’t expecting it (the time) but I was hoping for it and it came along.”
Coached by his father Daniel and based out of the QEII track in Brisbane his gaze now turns to the A final when medals will be at stake.
“The expectation is hopefully I’ll win the final,” he adds. “Now, I’ll rest up until the final and see what happens.”
Alex Hulley (NSW) started the session with a bang for Australia by bettering her national record and leading all qualifiers in the girls hammer.
World ranked No.2 coming into the event the flame-haired Sydneysider added 2.12m to her previous best thanks to a monster 70.87m second round effort which crashed into the turf at the state-of-the-art Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.
Hulley, who is coached by Breanne Clement – a team manager here in Nanjing – and Karyne Di Marco, said: “My form has been amazing and I just came out here and tried as hard as I could. Surprisingly, I had no nerves. I’ve competed on the world stage before (Hulley finished ninth at the 2013 World Youth Championships) and this is where I had an advantage out there because when they called my name and I could hear the loud cheering I could switch off and focus on what I was doing.”
The 17-year-old qualified some 60cm clear of Italy’s Lucia Prinetti but now it is all about delivering in Sunday’s A Final.
“My goal was always to come here and win I just need to smash it again,” she added.
Also catching the PB bug was girls 100m sprinter Sam Geddes (NSW), who also defied a lowly ranking on season’s bests (she was ranked 13th) to perform way above expectations and qualify fourth fastest for the A final slashing 0.09 from her previous best to stop the clock in 11.69.
Running from the inside lane two she made a powerful start and finished with a flourish to place second in heat one behind home favourite Xiaojing Liang (10.64) of China.
Leaping up and down with joy in the wake of her performance and even finding the time to shake the hands of the Youth Olympic Games mascot an elated Geddes said: “I’m ecstatic right now. I wasn’t that confident coming into it but I thought beforehand whatever happens is just a huge bonus and that helped relax me. I then thought I should go out there, give it my all and leave it on the track.”
Sam, younger sister to Australian Commonwealth Games sprinter Jarrod, said she been preparing for the heat she might face in Nanjing by training in the middle of the day and the move has paid dividends.
Now the 17-year-old has an A final to focus on where the aim is simple.
“I just plan to give it everything,” she added.
The seriously contagious PB bug also spread to boys hammer thrower Ned Weatherly (Vic), who enhanced his lifetime best by more than four metres to qualify fourth for the A final with a herculean throw of 75.59m.
The charismatic Victorian fouled with his first attempt but then produced his stunning PB throw in round two. He followed this up with the second and third best throws of his life in rounds three and four with 74.83m and 73.28m but was genuinely perplexed at the improvement.
“I cannot believe how far I’ve thrown in this stadium under all that pressure”, said the 16-year-old. “I just could not imagine throwing 75m. I did not expect to make the final and then the sudden realisation hit me earlier today that I’m here to represent Australia and that I’ve gone on to achieve what I told my dad I would do when I was aged 12.”
Also booking her spot in the final was 15-year-old Grace Robinson (NSW), whose third attempt with 15.61m earned her safe passage into the medal showdown in the girls shot as the sixth best qualifier.
The other Aussie to progress to the A final was Rosie-May Davidson (NSW),who qualified ninth in the girls 2000m steeplechase in 6:58.35.
Nicole Robinson’s second time clearance of 1.74m placed her 11th in qualification for the girls high jump and the Western Australian will contest the B Final on Sunday.
With thanks to Steve Landells.
Athletics Day 3 Schedule
*Times are in local Nanjing time (CST). Australian EST is 2 hours ahead of the times above (ie 1pm CST = 3pm EST). This schedule highlights events Australians are likely to be competing in. Events are listed in chronological order.
19:00 - Men's Pole Vault Qualification – Declan Carruthers (SA)
19:40 - 20:00 Women's 1500m Heats – Emily Augustine (NSW)
20:05 - 20:33 Men's 200m Heats – Jordan Csabi (Qld)
20:25 - Women's Triple Jump Qualification – Tay-Leiha Clark (NSW)