SINGAPORE - On the final day of track & field qualifying action at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, five more U.S. athletes qualified for the finals, bringing the total to 16 who will duke it out for medals. Qualifying Thursday were 200 meter runners Olivia Ekpone (Germantown, Md.) and Brandon Sanders (Columbia, S.C.), 400 meter hurdler Amber Bryant-Brock (College Park, Ga.), 1000 meter runner Claudia Francis (Laurelton, N.Y.), and hammer thrower Shelby Ashe (Stone Mountain, Ga.).
Ekpone was the last U.S. runner to compete Thursday and she didn't disappoint, winning her heat in 24.05 and clocking the second-fastest time heading into Monday's final.
I was actually quite impressed with my time, Ekpone said. I felt great during warm-up and this morning. I felt absolutely ready. I was mentally focused. I knew I was ready for this race. I've been preparing and everything finally came together today. I was hoping to go under 24, but I'll take it.
Finishing just ahead of Ekpone was Nkiruka Florence Nwakwe of Nigeria in 23.98. Ekpone's father is from Nigeria, and she has a friendly relationship with Nwakwe. In fact, Ekpone still has family that lives in Nigeria and hopes to visit next summer. But first comes Monday's final, which promises to be a showdown. Ekpone says her goal is to win the gold medal and break 23.60.
I'm really focused on the 2012 Olympics, she said. I've talked to my coach back in Maryland and he's helping me work to that goal. Since I'm graduating in 2011, I'm kind of looking at colleges that will help me get to where I want to go, and that's the 2012 Olympics. My dream is London 2012.
Sanders also blazed through his 200 at Bishan Stadium, finishing his heat in second place with 21.81. The boys' 200 meter final promises to be an exciting race, with all eight boys within nearly a half of a second of each other. Posting Thursday's fastest time was Zhenye Xie of China with 21.27.
Finishing in third for the day were Bryant-Brock and Ashe. Bryant-Brock won her heat in the 400 meter hurdles in 59.46, just a hair behind France's Aurelie Chaboudez, who posted a 59.26 in her heat. Ashe, who competed in the hammer throw, threw a 58.01 on her third throw, just more than a meter behind leader Alena Navahrodskaya (BLR). In the 1,000 meter race, Francis placed fifth in her heat and ninth overall.
Just missing a spot in the finals was pole vaulter Reese Watson (Spring, Texas), who cleared 4.60 on his first attempt but failed to clear 4.70. A single miss at 4.45 was what made the difference, breaking the tie for eighth place and giving the last slot in the finals to an athlete from Brazil. Boys 400 meter hurdler Gregory Coleman (San Antonio, Texas) did not finish Thursday due to an injury. He made it through half of his race before having to pull up due to a hamstring pull.
In all, 16 of the 20 U.S. track & field athletes in Singapore qualified for the finals, which take place Saturday, Aug. 21, through Monday, Aug. 23. More than 500 young athletes from 170 countries are participating in the track & field competition at the YOG.
Athletics, Girls 200m Qualification, Heat 2
- Olivia Ekpone (USA) 24.05
- Shericka Jackson (JAM) 24.24
- Karin Okolie (BUL) 24.39
Athletics, Girls 400m Hurdles Qualification, Heat 1
- Amber Bryant-Brock (USA) 59.46
- Olena Kolsnychenko (URK) 59.58
- Brittany Lewis (CAN) 1:00.16
Athletics, Girls 1000m Qualification, Heat 1
- Anastasiya Tkachuk (URK) 2:43.55
- Georgia Peel (GBR) 2:45.78
- Andrina Schlaepfer (SUI) 2:46.09
- Claudia Francis (USA) 2:51.99
Athletics, Girls Hammer Qualification
- Alena Navahrodskaya (BLR) 59.39
- Alexia Sedykh (FRA) 59.02
- Shelby Ashe (USA) 58.01
Athletics, Boys 200m Qualification, Heat 3
- Zhenye Xie (CHN) 21.27
- Brandon Sanders (USA) 21.81
- Guy Elphedge Anouman (FRA) 21.95
Athletics, Boys 400m Hurdles Qualification, Heat 3
- Norge Sotomayor Lara (CUB) 51.74
- Enrique Gonzalez (ESP) 53.14
- Tramaine Maloney (BAR) 53.86
DQ. Gregory Coleman (USA)
Athletics, Boys Pole Vault Qualification
- Wataru Tanaka (JPN) 4.80
- Chrysanthopoulos (GRE) 4.70
- Ivan Horvat (CRO) 4.70
- Reese Watson (USA) 4.60