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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Young, strong and fiercely competitive

The next generation of young athletes outshone more experienced rivals at the Doha Worlds with riveting performances.
Niklas Kaul
Germany’s Niklas Kaul, who won the decathlon gold at the Athletics World Championships, is one of the many promising youngsters who stole the spotlight in Doha. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser and Germany’s Niklas Kaul are just 21 years old. But they stole the thunder from their more experienced opponents at the Doha World Championships.

Naser came up with an amazing run in the 400M clocking 48.14 seconds, the third best in the all-time list. Kaul, who is taking part in his first World Championships, outshone his more experienced opponents Canada’s Damien Warner and Estonia’s Maicel Uibo.

Their performances were the crowning glory of some sterling displays from the youth brigade in the Qatari capital.

Noah Lyles, Christian Coleman, Joshua Cheptegei, Tajay Gayle, Dina Asher-Smith, Yulimar Rojas — all under 25 years of age — struck some terrific blows for the younger lot. They were strong, focused and fiercely competitive. An indication that the sport could take off to greater heights with their performances in the future.

Lyles, who blazed to victory for the US in the 200M summed it up the best. “It’s my time. I’m me, don’t compare me to anyone else,” he said.

Tajay Gayle
Jamaica’s Tajay Gayle stunned some of the best in the long jump competition to win gold. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

And the athletes vindicated that it was their time in more ways than one. Lyles stormed to victory in the 200M while Coleman put Justin Gatlin in the shade in the 100M.

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei seized the opportunity this time around after signaling his enormous talent with a silver in London in 2017. Tajay Gayle stunned Olympic champion Jeff Hendersen and former World Champion Luvo Manyonga in the long jump.

Dina Asher-Smith showed that she cannot be taken for granted in the 200M and the 100M, winning gold and silver respectively. Just 23-years-old, Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas already has two gold medals from world championships (2017, 2019) and an Olympic Games silver.

Yaroslav Mahuchikh
Ukraine’s 18-year-old Yaroslav Mahuchikh won the silver medal in the women’s high jump with an impressive display. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, 32, who just about saw off Asher-Smith’s challenge in the 100M, spoke her mind on the emerging talent. “They are very competitive and fierce. There are some amazing runners coming through and some great contests are lined up in the future. It’s bound to be a great time for athletics,” she said.

The 37-year-old Justin Gatlin tipped his hat off to the young generation of sprinters. “Runners all over the world are coming up with amazing times. They are pushing each other and that’s a boost for the sport,” he said.

There were others among the younger lot who may not have bagged gold but their performances certainly staggered the old guard. Sweden’s 19-year-old Armand Duplantis, 18-year-old high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh from Ukraine and 20-year-old Sydney McLaughlin of the US in the 400M hurdles ran their opponents close.

Grant Halloway
US’ Grant Holloway powered to a phenomenal win in the 110M hurdles. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

All of them won silver in their events, the gold eluding them by a whisker. And in the future, they could very well dominate their events as well as sending out some old marks out of the window.

The 29-year-old Dalilah Muhammad, who edged out McLaughlin to the gold and also set a world record in the process, was aware of the competitors breathing down her neck. Probably world records will have to be the order if she has to stay ahead of them. “I have no choice if I have to be competitive,” she said.

The Doha World Championships seemed a precursor to what’s in store at the Tokyo Olympics next year. Great contests, great timings and a possible obliteration of old marks if the words of an emerging talent is any indication. The 21-year-old American Grant Holloway, after winning the 110M hurdles, said, “I am always a student of the game. Only then can I get better.”

In July-August next year, the Land of the Rising Sun could well turn into the Land of the Rising Stars.

Armand Duplantis
The talented Armand Duplantis of Sweden was a delight to watch in the men’s pole vault. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran