Pyeongchang 2018

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Ten athletes to watch during the 2018 track & field season

As the outdoor season gathers momentum, there are a lot of fast rising talents leaving their mark on the track and field.

We look at ten athletes to watch:

Briana Williams – Women’s 100m, 200m – Jamaica

Williams broke into the top five of the women’s 100m on the eve of her 16th birthday with a blazing 11.13 in Florida, where she bettered Marion Jones’ previous age group world record of 11.17 seconds. She is fourth in the seasons outdoor list.

The high school student based in Florida was the star performer at the CARIFTA games in March where she broke the event record, clocking 11.27 and won the 200m in 23.11 seconds.

She also ran the opening leg for the Jamaican 4 x100m that the team won. The daughter of a Jamaican and an American father, Williams has great energy and enthusiasm. She is being moulded by decorated sprinter Ato Boldon, the four-time Olympic medallist who is her coach.

 

Jordan A Diaz – Men’s Triple Jump – Cuba

The future of the triple jump looks bright with Diaz involved. The Cuban has stirred the jumping world with his huge leaps. His name is being mentioned in the same breath as that of world record-holder Jonathan Edwards of Great Britain. Diaz is inching closer to the epic 18.29m mark that has stood for almost 23 years.

Diaz’s effort of 17.32 at a meet in Havana in February is the world lead. The prodigy made his statement when he won the world U18 title in Nairobi in 2017, with a spectacular jump of 17m. Even his worst attempt at the event of 15.99m, would have won him the title.

Diaz was scouted by the international school of physical education and sport in Havana when he was 12. He started off in high and long jump, before switching permanently to triple jump in 2016.

 

Michael Norman – Men’s 200m, 400m – USA

The American is already a teenage athletics icon with eye-catching sprints in 200m and 400m.

He set a world indoor 400m record of 44.52 at the NCAA indoor championships in March in Texas, a race that saw the top five finishers run faster than the winning time at the 2018 world indoors.

The greatest asset of 20-year-old Norman is his raw speed, as he showed when dashing to 20.06 in Arizona days later.

The American came under the spotlight when he finished fifth in one of the toughest 200m fields at the US trials for Rio 2016. The World U20 double champion from the University of South California is coached by Olympic gold medallist Quincy Watts, and is shaping up to be a sensation as he looks to Tokyo 2020.

Sydney McLaughlin – Women’s 400m – USA

She is the new kid on the blocks of the women’s 400m, a pure track magic.

In a span of 24 hours the American clocked 22.39 for 200 meters at the Florida Relays, and sped off to 50.07 on a wet track to win the 400m. That was an Olympic final time.

With such depth of talent, Mclaughlin had several offers to turn pro but instead picked a scholarship from University of Kentucky, and has been blazing the NCAA since.

The time in Florida was a lifetime best, and the quickest time in the world by an U20 athlete since compatriot Allyson Felix’s 22.19 at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens.

During the indoor season, she set a world U20 indoor 300m best of 36.12 and followed it up with a world U20 indoor 400m record of 50.36.

She was 17 at Rio 2016 and was the youngest American to compete at the Olympics since 1972.

 

Armand “Mondo” Duplantis – Men’s Pole-Vault – Sweden

Duplantis has been vaulting since he was five, meaning at 18, he has unrivalled experience compared to his peers, and has surpassed some of the world’s finest in the sport. His PB is a world junior record of 5.90 metres.

Mondo was born into an athletic family; his father and coach, Greg, was a great American vaulter while his mother Helena, who is also his physical trainer, was a heptathlete and volleyballer. His elder brothers were also pole vaulters. But Mondo could be the best of the Duplantis’.

He has been springing world records from the time he was seven, holds dozens of age-group best times, and was the first high school vaulter to break the 5m mark.

Mondo’s 5.83m vault had a brief stint as the season’s best before Renaud Lavillenie took top spot.

Mondo has the technique, the flexibility, great motion, and is bound to go even higher. The new star has already won the world and European junior titles.

The only thing he can’t take for now are veggies, which Duplantis refuses to eat, or snails.

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“Y’all legit be eating snails?”

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Danil Lysenko – Men’s High Jump – Russia

After winning silver at the 2017 worlds outdoors, Lysenko beat a classy field that included two-time Olympic medallist Mutaz Essa Barshim for the world indoor title in Birmingham.

The 2.36m was no fluke as the 21-year-old has proved since, competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete.

It has been a steady rise for the former Russian junior champion since his international breakthrough in 2014 when he won the Youth Olympic games title in Nanjing.

 

Nina Schultz – Heptathlon – Canada

Nina Schultz is a fast rising heptathlete who is leading the outdoor performances of the season after amassing 6018 points in San Antonio.

Her performance list runs deep. The 19-year-old daughter of a Chinese mother holds Canada’s U20, high school, and junior records. She cracked the national team, and is her nation’s youngest participant at the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.

Schultz has the top pentathlon score in Canada, 4,502 points from Texas that ranks as the seventh highest points total in NCAA history, where she only debuted last year.

In 2017, she competed at the Chinese national games, looking to carrying on a family tradition, that began with her grandmother Zheng Fengrong competing in the high jump in 1957. Her grandfather Duan Qiyan was also a high jump champion at the same event. Her mother who migrated to Canada in 1990s, was also a high jumper. Schultz has Tokyo 2020 in her sights, but as a Chinese athlete, as she seeks to ‘honour her 80-year-old grandma with gold’.

 

Michael Saruni – Men’s 400m, 800m – Kenya

There is a new warrior in the making looking to take over the middle distance. Saruni is a different kind of Kenyan runner with his baby dreadlocks. His majestic running style and confidence is every bit that of his Masai kinsmen, who have raced and ruled the middle-distance race, led by David Rudisha, the world record holder.

The 22-year-old is outspoken and doesn’t shy away from expressing his joys and disappointments.

He was controversially dropped from the nation’s squad for the 2017 worlds for a more experienced runner. Saruni proved his doubters with the world indoor 600m best times months later.

The student at the University of Texas also holds one of the fastest world indoor times in the 800m. He set mark of 1:45.79 that has him now listed second in indoor collegiate history just slower than his coach Paul Ereng, the Olympic champion who ran 1:44.84.

Saruni clocked the world’s sixth fastest 400m time this year from his 45.42 win at Albuquerque.

 

Vashti Cunningham – Women’s High Jump – USA

Four American championships at 20, Cunningham is likely to standout this season.

The daughter of retired NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, who jumped in high school before he moved to American football, Vashti was the youngest American at Rio 2016 and easily booked her slot for the outdoor worlds in London.

She has headlined the women’s high jump season since her breakout gold at the 2016 world indoors. She also won world indoor silver in Birmingham earlier this year, clearing 1.93m, just short of her season best of 1.96.

The bar continues to be raised for this pro athlete.

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Mf szn here #yearofthedogs

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Celliphine Chespol – Women’s 3000m Steeplechase – Kenya

The young Kenyan talent has been touted as the biggest distance track star of 2017. After winning the U18 world title at home earlier in the year, she showed pure class in a record breaking run in Oregon. During the Profontaine Classic race, she stopped to fix her shoe for about three seconds at the penultimate water jump, but still managed to catch the leading pack in the final lap and a half.

The 18-year-old beat Olympic champion Ruth Jebet in 8:58.78, the fourth fastest time in history and a world record in her age group.

Chespol, the 2016 world youth gold medallist has already added the Africa cross country title to her expanding collection.

She had a taste of top level competition at the worlds in London, but inexperience cost her gold at the 2018 Commonwealth games in Australia.

 

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