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Aikines-Aryeetey takes Junior 100m gold

17 August 2006

By Elliott Denman

Harold Abrahams, Alan Wells, Linford Christie ... Harry Aikines-Aryeetey?

Maybe, just maybe.

In the sensational Aikines-Aryeetey, winner of the 100m dash at the World Junior Track and Field Championships Wednesday in Beijing, Great Britain has its finest sprint prospect in years.

But does he have the potential to follow in the golden footsteps of the UK's trio of past Olympic 100m kings, Abrahams (1924), Wells (1980) and Christie (1992)?

"There is nothing impossible for him," declares his coach, Matt Favier.

The race was over in 10.37 seconds - the man they'll surely acronymize into HAA winning narrowly over Canada's Justyn Warner (10.39), the Jamaica duo of Yohan Blake (10.42) and Remaldo Rose (10.43) and China's own Jiahong Liang (10.43) - and the newly crowned world's fastest young man was overjoyed.

"I'm over the moon right now and just want to talk about with everyone," he told writers after the triumph at the scene of the 2008 Olympic Games. "After my semifinal (Tuesday), I just wanted to get out there and finish the business."

However, he's well aware of the potential potholes he'll face in the run-up to senior-level honors in the years ahead.

As for returning to Beijing in two years time for the Olympics, HAA said he'd like nothing better. Then again, he realizes his grandest Olympic opportunity - in every sense - would have him wait to reach full maturity for the Olympic Games of 2012 in London.

He'd won gold medals in the 100m and 200m dashes at the World Youth Championships (for athletes 17 and under) in Marrakech, Morocco in 2005, so his victory here - a day before his 18th birthday - was not exactly a long shot.

But beating out a stellar field of challengers - some of them a year older in this meet open to athletes 19 and under - was still an outstanding feat, and he'll have a crack at two more medals (in the individual 200m dash and the 4x100 relay) before the World Juniors are over.

The one subject HAA does not want to discuss is the hot-button topic of performance-enhancing drugs, the plague of his sport and most certainly of his sprint specialties.

In a sense, he's already been touched by the drug dangers.

In April, he'd traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina. USA for two weeks of training with Justin Gatlin and Coach Trevor Graham.

While he absorbed plenty of technical knowledge training with the Olympic and World Championships gold medalist and his coach, he was subsequently stunned to learn of Gatlin's shocking positive drug test and possible lifetime banishment from international athletics.

"I was disappointed to hear the news," was the understated comment of HAA on hearing the story of Gatlin's failed drug test.

Gatlin and Aikines-Aryeetey had bonded as "big brother and litle brother," some had said.

Now, HAA will stick to the family of British friends and advisors he knows best.

Aikines-Aryeetey, a student from Surrey, is as promising in the classrom (as an A-level student) as he is on the track.

Termed "a perky character" by Times of London athletics writer David Powell, he's hoping to go on to Britain's Brunel University to focus on sociology studies.

He is a "cool" young fellow in every respect.

As Britain's team leader, Martin Rush, put it, "I think the fact that he is so happy-go-lucky helps him in the way he handles the pressure."

In a day of six finals in Beijing, the top honors were spread in six ways.

Gold medals in the three other men's events were taken by Estonian discus thrower Margus Hunt, Australian long jumper Robert Crowther, and Ethiopian 10,000m runner Ibrahim Jellan Gashu.

The lone women's finals on the day's card were the 100m dash and hammer throw.

The women's 100m saw Bulgaria's Tezdzhan Naimova (11.28 seconds) win it decisively over USA high schooler Gabby Mayo of Raleigh, NC (11.42), Jamaica's Carrie Russell (an indentical 11.42), Britain's Asha Phillip (11.48) and USA's Alexandria Anderson (11.49).

Texas freshman Anderson was the fastest of Monday's semi-finalists but not a threat in the final.

Bianca Perie of Romania, like Aikines-Aryeetey a gold medalist at the World Youth Championships last year in Marrakech, took another big step forward with her mighty gold medal hammer throw of 67.38 meters (221 feet, 1 inch.)

Gushing positive adjectives, she was a perfect guest of China, stating "I am very happy to have competed in such a beautiful country in front of such a beautiful public who always expect good performances."

Hunt's victory in the men's discus was no surprise - certainly after he'd set a World Junior record of 66.35 meters (217 feet, 8 inches) in Monday's qualifying round.

Well, he did even better in the Tuesday finals, improving his world mark for the 1.750-kg implement by 0.97 meters (3 feet, 2 inches) to 67,32 meters (220 feet, 10 inches).

Hunt - who hopes to attend an American university sometime in the future - got off a superlative toss of 66.68 meters (218 feet, 9 inches) and after a 66.40 in round five peaked out in round six.

The eventual winning throw came in Hunt's final whirl and clinched the verdict over silver medalist Mohammed Samimi of Iran (63.00 meters / 206-8 ) and Martin Wierig of Germany (62.17. / 203-11).

African runners took five of the first six places in the men's 10,000 meters, Ethiopia's Gashu (28:53.29) fighting off Kenya's Joseph Ebuya (28:53.40), with Bahrain's Aadam Ismaeel Khamis (28:54.30) close up for the bronze.

The long jump was dramatic, with the top places not sorted out until the fifth of six rounds.

Crowther won it, spanning precisely 8.00 meters (26 feet, 3 inches), barely beating out American Antone Bolt, a University of Louisville freshman (who went 7.95 / 26-1) and China's own Xiaoyl Zhang (7.86 / 25-9 ½.) who had held the early lead.

Another American, Aaron Smith, placed fifth at 7.61, just back of fourth-placer Mohammad Arzandeh of Iran, who covered 7.67.

Other leading American prospects advancing through the Wednesday qualifying rounds included Long Island hammer thrower Walter Henning; 400m runner Justin Oliver of Stone Mountain, Ga. and Spokane, Wash. 800m runner Rebekah Noble.

Eight finals are on Thursday's schedule: the men's 400m and 1500mr races and high jump, plus the concluding five events of the decathlon, along with the women's 400m run, 400m hurdles, 3000m steeplechase and triple jump.

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