World Junior Championships Preview

LOGO-CROPPEDThe IAAF World Junior Championships arrive in America for the first time today and lots of good hammer throw action is lined up over the next few days. Featuring the top athletes under the age of 20 (born in 1995 or later), the hammer throw kicks off first with women’s qualifying today and the final on Wednesday in Eugene. The men’s qualifying round is on Thursday with the final on Friday. Complete results will be posted on the IAAF homepage.

The Americans

Four Americans will be competing in Eugene. High school junior Haley Showalter and Northern Arizona University’s Brooke Andersen qualified by placing first and second at the US Junior Championships. Collegians Charlie Ionata of Wake Forest and Clarence Gallop of Charleston Southern earned spots on the men’s team.

Americans have had finalists at the last few editions of the meet, but this time that task might be a little more difficult. While the team is very strong and the depth nationwide has improved, they lack a big heavyweight that can compete with the world’s best. The best chance for a finals spot is Showalter. Her best of 58.92 meters ranks 16th among the 27 competitors, but historically just under 60 meters has been enough to make the finals. With her consistency and a home field advantage, she has a good shot.

The Favorites

The biggest name at the meet is Qatari Ashraf Amjad Al-Saifi. The Egyptian born athlete produced the most impressive performance of the meet two years ago by shattering the world junior record at the age of 17 with a toss of 85.57 meters. Two years later he is still a junior and will be looking to improve upon that record. Last season he focused on the senior implement and qualified for the IAAF Championships in Moscow. Now he has returned to the 6-kilogram hammer and has approached his record earlier this year, but only broken 80 meters once.

Chasing him will be Bence Pasztor. The Hungarian junior champion is the only other athlete to have broken 80 meters, doing so on three occasions. He was the European junior runner-up last year. Several other Europeans are right behind him including Russia’s Ilya Terentyev and Icelandic record holder Hilmar Orn Jonsson. There are also several athletes that will be tryingto convert youth magic into junior magic, such as 2013 World Youth champion Matija Greguric of Croatia, current world youth leader Bence Halasz of Hungary, and world youth record holder Joaquin Gomez of Argentina. Matt Denny of Australia also has the distinction of being a medal contender in both the hammer and discus.

The women’s competition is less clear cut. The level is slightly down for its historic heights in 2012, but it is quite deep. The world leader is Ukraine’s Alona Shamotina who threw 68.43 meters to win her national junior title last month. But the favorite is likely Hungary’s world youth champion and record holder Reka Gyuratz. Also entered in the discus, Gyuratz has throw over 67 meters this year and already placed 8th at this meet as a 16 year old two years ago. Elana Korosidou is the only other athlete to have broken 65 meters this year, and Hungary’s current youth champion Zsofia Backsay is not far behind.

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