It's been a weird, wild and wonderful first two days at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere. The Finnish line has greeted all manner of upsets and heralded the arrival of the sport's future stars. These were some of the brightest lights. 

Shocker level: 100

Lalu Muhammad Zohri of Indonesia (far left) wins the 100m at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Before this championships, it's fair to say Indonesia didn't have a great record in this sphere, their two competitors over the past 32 years netting a grand total of one DNF and one eighth-place finish (in a heat) between them. 

But boy, how that changed on what was a weird and wonderful Wednesday night in Tampere. 

In the men's 100m final, Lalu Muhammad Zohri catapulted down lane eight and duly shook up the world, taking gold in 10.18 over US favourites Anthony Schwartz and Eric Harrison.

"I will party tonight!" said Zohri. 

You've earned it, mate. 

Shocker level: 3000

Nozomi Tanaka of Japan after her 3000m triumph at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

We know how it usually goes, more often than not, at underage championships in long-distance track events: an athlete from East Africa - take your pick from any of their endurance superpowers - wins gold.

Perhaps for the early few laps someone else will take the pace, often a Japanese runner, but we all know how that works out for them in the end. 

Except, this time it was different.

This time nothing made sense, yet everything made sense, the hot pace churned out by Japanese duo Nozomi Tanaka and Yuna Wada putting everyone to a decision inside the opening lap of the 3000m final. 

No one went with them, and by halfway the pair had built a lead of 40 metres.  

The first to give proper chase were Ethiopian pair Meselu Berhe and Tsiga Gebreselama, but that only began in earnest with three laps to run. By then it was still on, the miracle of Tampere. 

With a lap to run, it was still on too, as was it with 200 long metres remaining, even though Tanaka was running all alone and clearly tiring as Berhe left her Ethiopian compatriot behind and kicked into gear. 

Not this time, said Tanaka, who dug deep into her suitcase of courage and somehow found extra reserves to hold her off, 8:56.39 to 8:59.20. 

Minutes later Tanaka's compatriot Yuki Hashioka made even more history for Japan as he won a historic long jump gold with 8.03m, defeating Cuban favourite Maikel Vidal in the process. 

What friends are for

Jaryd Clifford and Samuel Tanner after their 1500m heat at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Cathal Dennehy)

Athletics is a real nice-guy sport, and if ever you questioned the validity of that then you just needed to look to Tampere on the opening day, where we saw two great examples of rivals helping those they're supposed to be rooting against. 

First, the men's 1500m heats, where partially sighted runner Jaryd Clifford from Australia was making his major championship debut, an intimidating environment for a guy who can only make out blurry outlines of those around him. 

Step forward Samuel Tanner, who was drawn alongside Clifford and offered to help him warm up, running in front of him and acting, essentially, as a guide.

“We were in the same heat and being Aussies and Kiwis, we’re good buddies even though we have a rivalry,” said Tanner. “When we’re on the world stage we’re nearly on the same team.”

They finished within half a second of each other in seventh and eighth place, and while neither qualified, afterwards both made a pal for their future careers.

"We only met last week but Australia and New Zealand, we stick together,” said Clifford. “He was such a great help today.”

What friends are for, part II

Joel Johnson of the Bahamas and Jojo Iav of Vanuatu ()

Shortly before the 100m heats, Joel Johnson of the Bahamas has his number come loose, but at a time when he could easily have been focusing on himself, rival Jojo Iav of Vanuatu stepped up to offer his help. 

If this is the future of our sport, it's in good hands.  

 I get knocked down...

Jason Nicholson ()

This was Jason Nicholson setting a PB. Yes, this was British 110m hurdler Jason Nicholson setting a lifetime best of 13.58 to finish second in his heat behind race favourite Damion Thomas. The Briton bashed the last hurdle and slowly crumbled to the track, falling over the line before bouncing back to his feet in an instant.

Later in the day, he returned for the semi-final and showed approximately zero ill effects for his crash, turning the tables on Thomas and taking victory in another lifetime best of 13.32. 

The final awaits on Thursday (12th), and if he manages to win a medal with a cat's tumble like he did in the heat, we, for one, will buy him a drink. 

 The Rise of Rhonex

Rhonex Kipruto ()

If you want something done, it's best to do it yourself. 

While Rhonex Kipruto had some help early pushing things along at the front of the men's 10,000m, at which point rival Jacob Kiplimo led the way, eventually the Ugandan got fed up and moved aside, forcing Kipruto's hand. 

The Kenyan was happy to oblige.

After passing halfway in 13:57.22, Kipruto cranked the pace up to punishing levels over the second half, which he covered in a ridiculous 13:23.86 to run his rivals ragged and come home a distant winner in 27:21.08. 

"It was a great day," said rocket Rhonex, whose star looks to be ascending with every run. In the absence of an established king of the 10K following the departure of Mo Farah, we may know just the guy to take over. 

Ash the Flash

Ash Moloney's socks (Getty Images / SPIKES)

We've been impressed by a lot of athletes these past two days, but none more so than Australia's Ashley Moloney who set PBs in seven events of the decathlon to give the Land Down Under its first ever title in this event. 

Not only that, but Moloney did it while rocking the sort of sartorial splendour worthy of a star, which he kind of is after the past two days. 

Whether it was unicorns on his socks or chillis, he was certainly living a red-hot fantasy as he scorched around the track – and field – in various events. 

10.51 in the 100m, 2.10m in the high jump, 46.86 in the 400m, 47.39m in the discus, 4.60m in the pole vault, 53.67m in the javelin – it was an embarrassment of athletic riches the likes of which we'd never seen in one so young. 

It's also the reason Ash the Flash (as the Australian media guide tells us he is nicknamed) now has a championship and Oceanian U20 record to his name. Not to mention, a flaming bright future. 


Kyle Blignaut wins the men's shot put at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Meet Kyle Blignaut. Entering the final round of the men's shot put, it appeared certain that he was headed for gold. Until, of course, US favourite Adrian Piperi stepped up and launched a bomb, throwing a North American record of 22.06m. 

That had to be enough for gold, right?

Well, just seconds later, Blignaut entered the circle and dug deep into his reserves to find an incredible, almost illogically perfect throw of 22.07m. Now THAT is what you call clutch. 

Speaking of which...

The Clutch Kiwi

Madison-Lee Wesche of New Zealand en route to victory in the shot put at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Heading into round five of the women's shot put, it looked likely for gold to go to the Netherlands and to Jorinde van Klinken, who led with 17.05m in what had been a ho-hum competition. But along came Linru Zhang to hurl the implement to exactly the same distance, 17.05m and to take the lead on countback. By now we were all fairly sure gold was headed to China.

But one person who wasn't – good thing for her – was New Zealand's Maddison-Lee Wesche (pronounced Wish-ee) who exploded her final throw out to 17.09, adding 4cm to the winning margin enjoyed by Blignaut the night before. That, too, is rather clutch. 

Coached by Jacko Gill's father Walter, there's every chance Wesche could go on to become the next great Kiwi shot putter, especially since we now know that when the pressure is highest, she is at her greatest. 

Words: Cathal Dennehy