Jamaica Observer / TAMPERE, Finland — Jamaican athletes ended yesterday’s third day of the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, in brilliant fashion after winning back-to-back gold medals in a 20-minute span to lighten up a gloomy and chilly afternoon in front of the biggest crowd of the week so far. Just after 9:00pm local time (1:00pm Jamaican time), Damion Thomas led a Jamaican one-two in the men’s 110m hurdles final with Orlando Bennett, only the third time the feat was being accomplished in the history of the competition.
Thomas got sweet redemption after crashing out in the first round two years ago in Bydgoszcz and won in 13.16 seconds (0.3m/s) with Bennett second in 13.33 seconds. Japan’s Shunsuke Izumiya was third in a personal best 13.38 seconds.
About 15 minutes later, 16-year-old starlet Briana Williams ran a spectacular race to land the gold medal in the women’s 100m, running 11.16 seconds (0.0m/s); the third Jamaican to win the event and first in 18 years since Veronica Campbell Brown won in Santiago de Chile in 2000.
The other was Nikole Mitchell, who won in 1992.
American Twanisha Terry, who ran a championships record 11.03 seconds in the semi-finals, finished second in 11.19 seconds and Great Britain’s Kristal Awuah took the bronze in 11.37 seconds.
With the bronze won by Wayne Pinnock in the men’s long jump on Wednesday, Jamaica’s medal count is four, inclusive of two gold, a silver and a bronze. The Jamaicans are joint second in the medal table with Japan, as Kenya leads with three gold and a bronze.
Ewan Scott, the manager of the Jamaican team, said the victories would serve to further boost the great spirits that already exists in the Jamaican camp.
“It can’t get any better than this… we can just hope our other athletes will stay healthy and just deliver on what they promised, just like what happened this evening, and we are really, really happy for what happened,” he said.
Scott added that there were no surprises with the results so far.
“We expected Damion and Orlando to finish one-two, and while we knew it would be close with Briana against the USA girl who had the leading time going in, we were confident she would also deliver the goods,” he told the Jamaica Observer .
The two medals won in the hurdles race equalled the number Jamaican men had won in the history of the competition, after Kieron Stewart won bronze in Poland in 2008 and Tyler Mason took silver in 2014 in Eugene, Oregon.
Thomas and Bennett joined the Great Britain pair of Colin Jackson and John Ridgeon as teammates to win gold and silver in one sprint hurdles race and the American pair of Marcus Krah and Amere Lattin who won two years ago in Poland.
It was sweet redemption for Thomas, who had promised much in 2016, but is now the joint World Junior Record holder and World Under-20 champion.
“This is the sweetest form of redemption, sweeter than cake,” he told reporters afterwards. “I am happy for it; I am real blessed that God finally gave it to me this year… it’s funny how things work out,” he said.
Thomas, who was second in the NCAA outdoors championships last month, said he couldn’t recall much of the race.
“I just recall crossing the line I have to go back and look at the tape… I did not see much until the fifth hurdle and recalled what happened in the semis and stepped on the gas,” he noted.
Thomas said he never really thought about winning the gold at the World Under-20 Championships until he came close to beating Grant Hollway in the NCAA finals, and then equalling the World Junior Record at the JAAA National Junior Championships in late June.
Bennett, who had to overcome a clash of arms for the first part of the race with a runner in the lane next to him, was also happy for the silver medal. Virtually an unknown a month ago, he came to prominence after he was second to Thomas at the National Junior Championships in 13.00 seconds, third-fastest ever.
“I knew that I had to keep my focus and come out here and do my best for my family, my country, my coach, and all my loved ones back in Jamaica,” Bennett said.
Meanwhile, Carifta Game Under-17 sprint champion Williams said she was in shock that she won. “It’s just a great feeling; I can’t even express how I am feeling right now… I am just happy that I won another gold for Jamaica,” she beamed.
Williams will start her quest for the double this morning in the first round of the 200m,
Meanwhile, Stacey-Ann Williams was sixth in the girls’ 400m finals in 53.23 seconds and admitted that while she had gained a lot of experience, the competition was tough.
“I must say this is a good experience for me. In 2016 I was nowhere near to where I am now. I found the race really challenging, [but] I just went out there and did the best that I could do right now,” she said.
Hima Das created track and field history for India winning their first gold medal in international competition when she came from behind in the home stretch to land the gold in 51.46 seconds.
Romania’s Andrea Miklos took the silver in a personal best 52.07 seconds and the USA’s Taylor Manson took the bronze in 52.28 seconds.