Khalifa St Fort attracted the attention of many after copping silver for T&T at her first international competition last year at the IAAF World Junior Championships, which as of November has been renamed the World Under-20 Championships.
The name of the biennially-held event which starts today in Bydgoszcz, Poland, may have changed but the quality of athletes remains at a high calibre and the national junior record holder in the 100 metres, St Fort, will try to match up against the best junior athletes in the world.
Tomorrow at 6.35 am (TT time) at the Zdzisław Krzyszkowiak Stadium, the 18-year-old local sprinter will renew her rivalry with USA’s Candace Hill, who she duelled with at the IAAF meet in Cali, Colombia, last year. Then St Fort produced three personal bests at the competition, running 11.39, 11.24, then 11.19 seconds in the final to secure the silver medal behind Hill. The 17-year-old American, went on to complete a sprint double and set world U-18 bests of 11.08 and 22.43 seconds.
St Fort, who is coached by four-time Olympic medal winner Ato Boldon, is coming off a fourth place finish at the National Championships with a personal best of 11.16 and has been called up for relay duty at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next month.
Other favourites listed to compete are American Kaylin Whitmey, who comes in with a season-best 11.17, Poland’s Ewa Swoboda (11.18), who won the European junior title last year, and Evelyn Rivera of Colombia (11.20)
St Fort will be seeking to complete the double when she also face the starter in the 200m. The T&T sprinter’s personal best in the event is 23.55, which was set back in 2014. She will also compete in the 4x100m relay, in which she will partner with Jenea Spinks, Sara Wollaston and Akeera Esdelle. Also part of the relay squad is hurdler Jeminise Parris. The relay heats are set to take place on Friday from noon.
Spinks, who won the national junior title with a time of 11.79 and followed that up with a 11.65 in the senior championships will also line up in the women’s 100m while Parris will seek glory in the 100m hurdles, starting with the heats on Thursday evening from 6.35 pm.
Today though, it will be Akanni Hislop opening the T&T’s account at the elite meet in the men’s 100m at 6.05 am. He enters with a season-best time of 10.49 and will race in the heat one and try to finish among the top three or one of the next six fastest times to move on to the semifinals which is carded for tomorrow at 1.20 pm. The final will be at 3.35 pm.
Also in the event are this year’s leading junior runners including Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Abkar Mohammed (10.04), Nigel Ellis of Jamaica (10.16), American Noah Lyles (10.16), Filippo Tortu of Itlay (10.19) and Zambia’s Brian Kasinda (10.20). Others of note include South Africa’s Tlotliso Leotlela, who clocked a season’s best of 10.21 at altitude in Germiston earlier this year, and Australia’s Jack Hale, who set an Oceanian U20 record of 10.21 in Mannheim last month.
Like St Fort, he will try to do the double as he will contest the men’s 200m. The heats are scheduled for Thursday at 5.30 am.
Chelsea James is the lone local athlete competing in the field and and today from 6.40 pm she will hope her best will get her into the medal round in the women’s shot put event. The finalists will go for a podium spot from 12.35 pm tomorrow.
Khalifa St Fort (100m/200m/4x100m)
Jenea Spinks (100m/4x100m)
Sara Wollaston (4x100m)
Akeera Esdelle (4x100m)
Jeminise Parris (100m H/4x100m)
Chelsea James (Shot Put)
Akanni Hislop (100m/200m) - Tuesday 6.05 am 100 Thursday 5.30 am 200
Joshua St Clair (400m/4x400m)
Kashief King (400m/4x400m)
Juda Taylor (4x400m)
Dwight St Hilliare (4x400m)
Daniel Gibbs (4x400m)
Jim Clarke (manager), Gerrad Franklyn (head coach), Hydianne Harper Simmons (coach), Clint Mc Kenzie (physio)