By Will Downing
Ireland’s glorious athletics summer has continued with a second silver medal in the space of 24 hours at the World U20 Championships in Tampere.
Sommer Lecky of Finn Valley AC has added four centimetres to her Irish junior record and lifetime best to claim second place in the women’s high jump, clearing 1.90 metres.
18-year-old Lecky had cleared 1.86 indoors in Gent last February, and won the Irish junior title last month as part of the World Championships build-up.
In Tampere, Lecky had qualified with an outdoor season’s best of 1.84m to get into the final dozen.
There were wobbles along the way though – missing her first attempts at 1.80 and 1.87 before nailing both at the second attempt.
All other heights on the way up were cleared at the first attempt, as Lecky jousted with the best in the world.
Having cleared 1.87 at the second attempt, Lecky was one of seven left in the competition.
Suddenly, by clearing the next height of 1.90m first time around, Lecky was guaranteed a medal.
That’s because Cuban Isis Guerra, Lithuania’s Urté Baikštyt , Swede Maja Nilsson and “neutral” athlete Mariya Kochanova all bowed out with three misses at that height – giving Lecky a three-way battle for the medals alongside Colombia’s María Fernanda Murillo and Karyna Taranda of Belarus.
Murillo needed two attempts at 1.90, Lecky and Taranda just the one, so when the Colombian missed all three attempts at 1.92, Lecky was locked in for the silver at least.
The Donegal athlete came agonisingly close to clearing with her final attempt, but brushed it off.
19-year-old Taranda had already cleared her second attempt, to claim the gold medal, having won silver at last year’s European Juniors in Grosseto behind outgoing world champion Michaela Hruba of the Czech Republic, who is now over-age.
Afterwards, Lecky enthused: “At the end of the competition, I didn't know if I'd finished second or third.
“I have no words to describe this achievement. I was really happy with my jump today.
“This means the world for me and all of my supporters.”
Talking about her historic leap, Lecky said: “I’m over the moon, I’ve jumped a PB of 1.90!
“I knew I could jump it but I didn’t know I would jump it here!
“I’m just over the moon, I couldn’t put it into words how excited I am.
On breaking her own Irish junior record, she said: “I haven’t even thought of that yet. It’s just mental, and I was so close to 1.92 as well.
“I’ll leave that for another day. For now, I’ll just take the medal and run with it!
“Your mind tells your body what to do, and that’s what I did today. Set the bar and jump get over it.
“I told myself I was going to jump it – and I jumped it.
“This means a lot to me and my coach Niall Wilkinson, and everybody else at home – they know who they are.
“It was the last event today, so all my team-mates were here cheered me on.”
Lecky’s glorious silver medal comes off the back of the same colour claimed by the women’s 4x100m relay team yesterday, plus the European U18 golds claimed in Gyõr last week by Sarah Healy in the 1500 & 3000, Rhasidat Adeleke in the women’s 200m, and Sophie O’Sullivan’s silver in the 800m.
Say hello to the WORLD SILVER MEDALLIST
Sommer Lecky shocks everyone - including herself - with a huge lifetime best of 1.90m to make history for the Irish in Tampere. pic.twitter.com/StJboMRPuq— Athletics Ireland (@irishathletics) July 15, 2018
The relay silver was on the cards after Ireland won their semi-final in 44.27, with only Germany quicker in their semi.
The Irish quartet remained in touch all the way around via Molly Scott on the opening leg, and European junior champion Gina Akpe-Moses on the second.
When Ciara Neville handed over to Patience Jumbo Gula, the 16-year-old was up in fourth behind Germany, Britain and France, looking to make up for missing out on a medal at those European Youths in Hungary.
First, Jumbo shot past French anchor Eleane Marcelin in lane eight, with Ebony Carr of Britain next to be toppled.
However, Jumbo Gula was unable to thwart German Denise Uphoff on the line, as Germany took the honours in 43.82, ahead of Ireland’s new national junior record of 43.90 in second – itself only 0.06 outside the Irish senior record – with Britain third (44.05) and France fourth (44.24).
Carlow sprinter Scott, of St Laurence O’Toole’s AC said of her world silver medal performance: “I can’t believe it. This is what we came out to do.
“We’ve had this relay run over the past couple of years, and we’ve always missed out on the medals.
Akpe-Moses stated: “It means a lot as we have been very unlucky the past two or three years.
“I think coming out here and getting the job done, it means the most to us.”
Nevile reported: “I got the baton in a great, great position.
“I just attacked the bend as best as I could and get Patience in the best position possible, and I kept running down the home straight with her!”
Anchor star Patience Jumbo declared: “We finally got our goal - sub-44, we finally got our medal, I’m so happy and so proud of these girls. So happy!
“There’s more to come, we’re so young. We are going to be really strong as seniors.”
Ireland’s previous World Junior medals were silvers for Antoine Burke in the high jump in 1994, and Ciara Mageean in the 1500m eight years ago.
Elsewhere, Brian Gregan has had to drop out of the Irish team for next month’s European Championships in Berlin.
The former European U23 silver-medallist has reported an ankle injury that he has not been able to shake.
Gregan said: “I have tried everything to get back pain free but time has run out.
And tomorrow’s televised Cork City Sports will boast an Irish field including World University Games champion Thomas Barr, Scott’s clubmate Marcus Lawler, Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner, top long-jumper Adam McMullen, and Cork’s European Athlete of the Month from earlier this year Phil Healy, up against some useful overseas competitors.
In the mens 800m, 2016 World Indoor Champion and Rio Olympic finalist Boris Berian goes up against Portland bronze-medallist Erik Sowinski, seven-times British Champion Michael Rimmer and Brandon Laseter, who was fourth at this year’s US Championships, running a 1.45.85 PB for the year to date.
In the field events, the women’s hammer is set to be a superb competition as last year’s winner and meeting record holder, Ida Storm of Sweden returns to defend her title against another Swede Tracey Andersson, former South American champion and record holder Jenny Dahlgren, and British duo Sophie Hitchon and Jess Mayho who were first and second at the UK Championships last weekend. Hitchon was bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics. Ireland’s Michaela Walsh competes also.
The action at CIT gets underway at 6pm, with TG4 coverage commencing at 7:20pm.