‘At the double’ as competition gets underway
With medals in twenty two events up for grabs in three sports, this was no gentle easing into international competition for the talented youth of the Commonwealth. The first day of competition was never going to be a rehearsal for most, and timing their efforts to achieve success was key.
Amy Harding- Delooze literally took this adage and turned it into Golden perfection. The Women’s 1500m runner from Australia, was appearing in her first international competition and was making her way unremarkably through the field led by Joyline Cherotich of Kenya. The 17yr old was a distant 4th with 250m to go. From there her efforts were anything but unremarkable, she kicked, and kicked again to come through to second with 20 metres left, all the while taking the excited spectators at Apia park with her. The noise was deafening as she burst through to win with her very last step in 4 minutes 18.02 seconds. Leaving Cherotich shell shocked and just 2/10ths of a second behind.
The Australian champion at 800 and 1500m was understandably bubbling afterwards;
“It’s really amazing, I didn’t think I was even in with a chance of a medal. I was just really hoping to get a PB. I saw the girl in front and thought she was slowing down a bit so I just pushed a bit more. I’m still like really shocked but so happy.”
The Kenyans didn’t have to wait too long to bring home their first medal. One race to be exact. In the Men’s discipline Kumari Taki and Lawi Kosgei led from start to finish in a masterclass of middle distance running with Taki eventually holding out to win in 3 minutes 39.80 seconds just less than a second ahead. An impressive performance by the two of them.
After such an impressive performance, it was an understated Taki who reflected on his performance;
“I’m very happy although the race was not too easy, and we struggled the last lap a bit. I didn’t perform as well as I did in Cali, Colombia but all I wanted was a medal.”
More double performances were to follow, with South Africa notable. Tiotliso Leotlela led from the blocks to clock 0.20 seconds to win the ‘blue riband’ event of the Men’s 100m. Afterwards, he celebrated alongside teammate Werner Visser who was triumphant in the Men’s Discus with a throw of 60.94 metres. George Evans of Scotland split Visser from another South African Burger Lambrechts who threw 58.02 metres for Bronze.
Over at Tuana’imato Sports Facility two of the South African Swim Team were also inspiring each other. Within ten minutes of the evening session getting underway, South Africa had doubled their Gold Medal tally for the day. 17 year old Zane Waddell and 16 year old Erin Paige Gallagher were both proud owners of Gold Medals in their respective 50m Butterfly races.
No-one should understimate what these Games mean to young people both on and off the track and both Zane and Erin portrayed that overwhelming feeling of joy and success.
Zane, “It’s a great privilege, first Commonwealth Youth Games, second time representing South Africa, I couldn’t ask for more. I’m dumbstruck, speechless, it’s crazy. It’s the greatest experience. Every athlete has a dream to get a medal similar to this one and it’s a dream come true.”
Erin, “Oh my goodness I was so overcome with happiness, I thought I was going to shed one or two tears. When that anthem played I was just thinking of my family and my friends and everyone who has helped me get into this position. I was so happy for Zane, I thought I was going to cry for him as well. It was a PB for me so very, very, happy. I just wanted to go out there and get a good start and do whatever it takes from there. I knew if I had a good start then I could bring it on home. My long, thin finger nails got to the wall first!”
Abolaji Omotayo Oluwaseun 17, was the fastest woman on show at Apia Park coming home in 11.59 seconds for Nigeria’s first Gold Medal at these Games. Taking the Silver Medal was Etim Aniekeme Alphonsus providing a Nigeria one-two. The Bronze medal went to Scotland’s Alisha Rees in 11.72 seconds.
Second Gold for Nigeria and Oluwaseun, came in the 4 x 400m Women’s Relay. An event which took place at the same time as the Men’s 4 x 400m Relay. That event was won by Jamaica in 3 minutes 13.5 seconds. However, the biggest cheer of the day at the Track and Field was reserved for the silver medallists. Host nation, Samoa.
There was further cheer for another Pacific island in the Women’s 53 kg Weightlifting competition. Fiji’s Uline Sagone lifting 136 kg on her way to glory and maintaining the strong Pacific island tradition in this sport.
Catrin Jones of Wales has had a few days she won’t forget. She was the proud Flagbearer at the opening Ceremony just two days ago and now she is bearing a Gold Medal for her winning lift of 126kg in the 48kg Weightlifting.
“I don’t know what to say, I’m ecstatic. I put in a lot of preparation, 12 weeks so I guess it paid off.”
Sri Lanka and Australia picked up the other two medals through Srimali Divisekara Mudiyanselage and Hailee Jarrett.
There were three Gold Medals available on Day One and India comfortably picked up the third through Jamjang Deru in the 56kg men’s Weightlifting. The Commonwealth Youth Games has clearly been in his sights for a long time;
“I’m feeling very proud to win the Gold Medal for my country. I have been preparing for his competition for the last two years.”
He even had time to give a nod to the host country, saying;
“Samoa is a nice place with a good climate.”
Last time around, in the Isle of Man, England topped the Medal table. They’re off the mark this time around too. Emma Hamplett launched the Javelin 49.57 metres to win the Women’s event with Shanee Angol and Rochelle Etienne taking Silver and bronze for the Caribbean islands of Dominica and St Lucia.
200m Freestyler Georgie Boyle followed this up with another Gold in the pool. Georgie was another medallist overcome with emotion at winning;
“That was amazing, I’ve never won a medal and seen the flag go up, I nearly cried. It was a little off my PB but I just wanted to race and see what happened”.
Tom Derbyshire of England later took the 1500metre Freestyle title
Conor Ferguson of Northern Ireland also picked up a Gold in the 100m Men’s Backstroke.
Back at Apia Park in the Jump events India took the Gold in the High jump with Tejaswin Shankar clearing 2.14 metres and a leap of 7.67metres by Richard Seklorwu secured Ghana its first Gold of these Games.
Finally, it was more of those quick-fire medal strikes that brought the day to a close. Clyde Lewis of Australia claimed the men’s 200metre Freestyle title, whilst Gemma Cooney added further success in the women’s 200m butterfly.
100m backstroker Bobbi Gichard from New Zealand was delighted in clinching first place and had a smile at the fact that the flag raising malfunctioned for a split moment. Fellow Kiwi Wilrich Coetzee won the Men’s 200metre Butterfly and he aptly summed up the determination of the young athletes;
“It’s always been an ambition of mine, so it was great to get the job done. My main focus was the Gold.”
Another Swimming Gold Medal in the 4 x 50 metre Mixed Relay helped South Africa to the top of the medal table on a day where the Commonwealth Youth games spectators and teams were treated to double the amount of quality in the Medal events.
By The Reporters’ Academy