As we continue our countdown to the start of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, we look at a quintet of special athletes who defied age logic to be crowned world champions in their teenage years.
Eliud Kipchoge (Age 18) – 2003 – Men’s 5000m
The Kenyan marathon icon may be virtually invincible today over the 42.2km distance but very few would have predicted a 5000m gold medal at the Paris World Championships against the powerful twin threat of Moroccan middle-distance maestro Hicham El Guerrouj and Ethiopia’s distance running king Kenenisa Bekele.
The pre-race talk was centred on which of the pair would secure a second gold in the Stade de France after the former had landed a fourth successive world 1500m title and the latter had pocketed the 10,000m crown. However, in one of the all-time great championship races it was Kipchoge, who earlier that year had posted a world U20 5000m record, who shaded a frantic dash for the line in 12:52.79 to launch the beginning of his legendary career.
Kirani James (Age 18) – 2011 – Men’s 400m
A winner of 400m titles at the 2009 World U18 Championships and the 2010 World U20 Championships, the teenage Grenadian’s talent had been evident for some time. In his final pre-event outing before the 2011 Daegu World Championships he blitzed to an area U20 record of 44.61 in London to offer genuine evidence of his gold medal credentials in South Korea.
In a fearless display, the tall, raw but talented James edged the defending world champion LaShawn Merritt by just 0.03 to wrestle the title from the American’s grip. The following year James, who was still a teenager at the time, added the Olympic 400m crown to his collection of global titles.
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Age 19) – 2015 – Men’s Marathon
His parents may have actively discouraged the Eritrean from starting a runner career but he answered any family criticism in the best possible way by becoming the youngest athlete to take this title with a mature performance on the streets of Beijing.
In only his third completed marathon, Ghebreslassie refused to panic when Tshepo Ramonene build up a sizeable lead in the second half of the race. The diminutive Ghebreslassie caught and passed the man from Lesotho at 36km and eventually ran out a gold medallist by a victory margin of 40 seconds to become the first Eritrean to land a world title. The following year he added further gloss to his career by securing the New York City Marathon crown.
Allyson Felix (Age 19) – 2005 – Women’s 200m
The most successful female athlete in World Championship history began her mind-boggling record of 11 golds, three silver and two bronze at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium with a trademark performance.
Remaining cool and calm despite Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown and Christine Arron of France holding a clear advantage at different stages of the race, the long-legged American, running with typical relaxed assurance, timed her run to perfection to strike gold in 22.16 – by 0.15 from her countrywoman Rachelle Smith.
Tirunesh Dibaba (Age 18) – 2003 – Women’s 5000m
The greatest female distance runner in World Championship history secured her very first global gold in Paris by destroying her more experienced rivals with a devastating late burst of speed.
Down the back stretch it appeared the fight for gold would be between Spain’s Marta Dominguez, Kenya’s Edith Masai and Yelena Zadorozhnaya of Russia only for the classy Ethiopian to glide past them on the outside and secure a victory by a little over half-a-second in 14:51.72. Dibaba went on to bank a further four World Championship gold medals and three Olympic titles during a stellar career.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
Fonte Oficial: IAAF.
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