As late as the New Year, Adam Gemili of Great Britain was dreaming of a professional soccer career, but now he changed his spikes for good.
After all, the 18-year-old won the 100-meter dash at the IAAF World Junior Championships in a record time of 10.05 and will be representing the host nation at the Olympic Games in August.
"It's a massive stepping stone," he told the BBC of his Barcelona triumph. "Just making the final was an achievement but the fact I won is so amazing. It's going to help me a lot at the Olympics."
Gemili wasn't the lone Brit in the final as the first six places were taken by pairs from the United States, Jamaica and Great Britain. LSU sprinter Aaron Ernest was second (10.17) followed by a blanket finish for third. Jamaican Odean Skeen grabbed the bronze (10.28) tailed ever-so-closely by American Tyreek Hill and Jamaican Jazeel Murphy, each stopping the clock in 10.29.
"I feel great. Obviously, I wanted to win, and I could have put together a better race today, but I’m pleased with the outcome," said New Orleans native Ernest said. "I timed my personal best, so I’m pleased. I thought I came out of the start either second or third and just rolled it up. I just felt good all day. I felt great running in the semifinal, and came back and ran a pretty good race tonight to win a silver medal."
Ernest and Hill — who hails from Douglas, Ga. — followed that final by racing in the preliminary round of the 200-meter dash on Thursday, each advancing without a scare.
It has been a strong performance from the U.S. men thus far, capped Wednesday by the gold-medal decathlon effort from Arkansas' Gunner Nixon and bronze-medal showing from Arkansas-bound long jumper Jarrion Lawson.
“I can’t explain this feeling — words can’t even describe,” said Nixon, who scored an American Junior Record 8,018 points. “I feel so lucky. I feel blessed — just to be here and be able to compete. I’m just so happy. The best part of the whole competition was the last 100 meters (of the 1500) because I knew I had the space I needed ahead of (Australia's Jake Stein). I almost came into the tears the last 20 meters because I knew I had won it. No lows, no bad events in this meet — I’m so happy.”
Other happy Americans include Texan Aldrich Bailey (45.79) and Floridian Arman Hall (46.42) who advanced to the 400m final along with successful American hurdlers. Maryland native Dondre Echols, headed to South Carolina in the fall, advanced in the high hurdles in 13.71. Eric Futch — of Penn Wood in suburban Philadelphia — made the finals in the 400m hurdles (50.77). Futch is following another Penn Wood legend, former world record holder Leroy Burrell, to the University of Houston.
A legend-in-the-making, New Zealander Jacko Gill, won the shot put for the second straight time. Five of his throws would have won the competition as his best topped out at 22.20 meters (72-10). Finishing 10th in the final was Cornell's rising sophomore Stephen Mozia of Plainfield, N.J. His best toss in the final was 19.45 (63-9 3/4).
There was not much local news on the women's side as Medgar Evers' star Kadecia Baird bowed out in the semifinals of the 100m dash. Representing Guyana, she will now focus solely on the 400, an event that has seen her come close to dipping below the 52-second barrier.
Jennifer Madu of Plano, Texas, did finish fifth in the 100m final (11.52). Dezerea Bryant of Milwuakee did not advance to the 100 final, but did pop an impressive 23.54 in the preliminaries of the 200. Both she and Texas A&M's Olivia Ekpone (23.74) will run in the semifinals.
Stanford-bound Cayla Hatton recorded the highest placing ever for an American at World Juniors in the 5k by taking in 15:50.32, the second-fastest ever by a high schooler and seventh-best all-time among American juniors.