Teenage sensation Sasha Zhoya peerless in 110m hurdles

Sasha Zhoya

France's Sasha Zhoya poses next to the electronic board showing his new World U20 Record in men's 110m hurdles during the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya on August 21, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Frenchman, 19, cruises to victory in mouth-watering 12.72 seconds at Kasarani Stadium
  • Zhoya’s time has got the world buzzing, and it has once again revived talk on Nairobi being considered as one of the most ideal destinations globally for setting world records

Frenchman Sasha Zhoya, 19, set the first World Athletics Under-20 Championships record on African soil with a jaw-dropping 12.72 seconds in the 110 metres hurdles at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani Saturday.

Aries Merritt of the United States of America holds the standard world record over the distance of 12.80 seconds he set at the Memorial Van Damme meet on September 7, 2012 in Belgium.

Zhoya’s time is not categorised as the new record because the 99 centimetres height of hurdles for the world junior championship is lower than the standard hurdles of 1.067 metres for senior athletes.

Therefore, the record only qualifies as a World Under-20 Championships mark. From his performance, Zhoya looks capable of improving the time.

The athlete was born and raised in Australia. His father is Zimbabwean and his mother is French.

Zhoya’s time has got the world buzzing, and it has once again revived talk on Nairobi being considered as one of the most ideal destinations globally for setting world records.

On August 9, 1987 Nigeria’s Chidi Imoh bettered the then world record for the 100m dash of 9.92 seconds during the All Africa Games held at Kasarani Stadium. However, the time was not validated and was dismissed as wind assisted, thereby upholding the world mark of 9.93  seconds set by American Calvin Smith in 1983.

On May 18, 2002 at Nyayo National Stadium, Namibian legend Frankie Fredericks clocked a wind assisted season's best time of 9.85 seconds in 100m at the Africa Athletics Confederation International Permit Meeting.

On Saturday, Zhoya was elated beyond comprehension.

“It’s the quickest time on any hurdle height and that makes me really happy," said the Frenchman who is already planning for the World Athletics Championships to be held in Oregon, US  next year.

"Now all I need to do is to replicate my junior performance in the senior category as I make the transition," said Zhoya who came to Nairobi with the WU20 season leading time of 13.02 seconds.

Second-placed Vashaun Vasciaanna of Jamaica lauded Zhoya.

"I am proud that I was part of the historic race where a WU20 record was set. I feel that I contributed much to it because I was right there with Sasha."

Zhoya was the race favourite, having posted 13.12 seconds in the semi-final, followed by the Jamaican (13.37 sec) and Columbia’s John Paredes in 13.49 sec.

Earlier in the morning session, Sofia Ramos Rodriguez continued with Mexico's good race walking history when she won gold in the women’s event.

With another brilliant combination of strength, stamina and technical prowess that none of her opponents could master or emulate, she won her country's fifth gold medal in this age group competition at Kasarani on a cool morning.

“There is a lot of tradition in race walking in Mexico, and I am very happy to continue with this,” said Rodriguez, who now turns her attention to the 2022 World Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk, Bulgaria .

“I have been working really hard. There are days where you don’t feel like training, but all these efforts have now been worth it," added the teenager.

"My next big event will be the Pan American U20 Games at the end of November, and after that, I will start getting ready for next season with the 2022 World Race Walking Team Championships on mind."

Rodriguez paced herself well, leaving her closest challenger Baljeet Kaur of India to lead for 3,000 metres before Kenya’s Margaret Gati courageously jumped ahead in the race up to the 4,000m mark.

The Mexican moved into the lead as Gati appeared to struggle and lose touch.

She was headed for victory unchallenged as she created a huge gap to win in 44:56.16 with 80 seconds to spare.

France’s Maele Bire-Heslouis got silver in 47:43.87 with Czech Republic’s Eliska Martinkova taking bronze in 47:46.28.