Taylor, Sawyers take aim at 400m quinella

Friday, July 13, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — The Jamaican medal rush will continue today when three athletes line up in two finals on the fourth day of the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.

Christopher Taylor and Chantz Sawyers qualified for the men's 400m final, while Shiann Salmon will chase gold in the women's 400m hurdles final as the Jamaicans seek to add to their medal tally.

There was one hiccup yesterday as IAAF World Under-18 Championships silver medallist Sanique Walker was unable to take her place in the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles, as a hamstring issue that flared up after the first round on Wednesday kept her out.

Highly rated female sprint hurdlers Britney Anderson and Amoi Brown will get their quest for medals off this morning and will hope to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts.

Like the Jamaican men, the two highly regarded hurdlers present a creditable chance of getting two medals from Anderson, who won at the World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya last year, and Brown, the fifth best in the event so far this year.

Five more Jamaicans, including Anderson and Brown, are down to make their first appearance at the championships, as Kimar Farquharson will contest the men's 800m, Lamara Distin will contest the women's high jump, while triple jumper Owayne Owens — who only arrived in the country on Wednesday night — will hope to advance past the first round and into today's final.

The first rounds of the sprint relays for both male and female will also be run today.

Salmon leads the qualifiers into the finals of the 400m hurdles, and it appears to be a straight battle for the gold medal between her and South African pre-championships favourite Zeney Van Der Walt.

Salmon was timed in 56.29 seconds, marginally ahead of IAAF World Under-18 champion Van Der Walt's 56.72 seconds, and both easily won their semi-final races yesterday finishing well ahead of the rest of the field.

Salmon took charge of the race early and never let up until she got over the final hurdle and noticeably dropped her pace.

“It wasn't as easy as it looked, but not as hard either. I have run 55 seconds already this season, so I am used to this pace... it's good to see that I am back where I am supposed to be at this point in time,” said Salmon.

Despite her dominance, Salmon was not counting the medals yet and said she was going into the race with the mindset to fight all the way to the finish line.

Both Taylor and Sawyers did just enough to qualify for the final.

Taylor won his race in 46.18 seconds and said he felt a bit of lactic acid in his legs at the end, after he trailed Canada's Khamal Stewart-Baynes then passed him on the last curve and cantered home for the win.

Sawyers battled Belgium's Jonathon Sacoor in the home stretch before looking over his shoulders and seeing that he was clearly in the second automatic qualifying spot, eased off and took second in 46.19 seconds. The Belgian won in a National Junior Record 45.72 seconds.

Also today, Malik James-King and Leonardo Ledgister will contest the semi-finals of the men's 400m hurdles after they both qualified easily from yesterday's first round.

James-King was relaxed in winning his opening round heat in the 400m hurdles in 51.54 seconds and told reporters afterwards: “Yes, it was as easy as it looked. I feel really good, but there was some shuffling... I will work that out by the semi-finals.”

Ledgister, who ran 51.65 seconds, led early but backed off in the home stretch and was beaten to the finish line by Barbadian Rasheem Griffith, who ran a season's best 51.02 seconds.

He admitted that he went out too fast in the first 200m and had to adjust over the second half of the race, and said being nervous at the start could have contributed to that.

Meanwhile, Xavier Nairne, the lone Jamaican in the men's 200m, bowed out in the semi-finals, finishing eighth in his second-round heat in 21.64 seconds after placing fifth in his first round race in the morning session in 21.32 seconds and advancing as one of the fastest losers.

It was not good news for both female long jumpers Ackelia Smith and Susan Francis as both failed to move forward to today's final.

Sixteen-year-old Smith had a best jump of 5.90m (-.0.3m/s), while Francis fouled her first two attempts before finishing with 5.47m (-0.2m/s), both finishing at the bottom of their respective qualifying groups.

— Paul Reid

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