Teenage sensation Zeney van der Walt was a dominant force in wet conditions to claim the women’s 400m hurdles gold at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
She is the first female athlete since Heide Seyerling in 1994 to win a track gold medal after producing a storming run of 55.34 seconds. The South African junior record-holder now boasts both the youth and junior global titles.
“This is a big achievement, me and my coach have been working for this for so long,” Van der Walt said.
“It was a tough race against the Jamaican but I was able to focus on my own race and the weather didn’t bother me because I train in the rain.
“It was a really emotional moment when I crossed the finish line. Ultimately, I want to make the senior World Championships and go to the Olympics. I just love track and field.”
Van der Walt was pushed for most of the race but there was no doubt about who the winner would be approaching the final two hurdles.
Jamaican Shiann Salmon put up a valiant fight but crossed the line almost a second behind Van der Walt with a time of 56.11 with Yasmin Giger of Switzerland finishing third in 56.98.
In what could be a repeat of last year’s IAAF U18 World Championships, Sokwakhana Zazini could make it a double 400m hurdles gold for South Africa in Saturday’s men’s final.
Zazini produced a smashing run in his semi-final posting the fastest time of the three races clocking 49.43 making him the firm favourite for the title. The South African stopped the clock just 0.11s short of his personal best and world lead of 49.32.