We wave farewell to Tampere by looking back on a wonderful final weekend, where the shock and awe continued at the World U20s.

The Italian Job

Italy 4x400m  ()

Of all the shocks, all the illogical upsets this week threw at us, perhaps this was the biggest. 

In the final event of the week, the one event we were sure – SURE – about the winner was the men's 4x400m. Shows what we know. 

It had been a tough week for the USA to get their hands on gold, and that trend continued in the climactic event, their lead-off man Elija Godwin dropping the baton at the first changeover, a move which may not have cost them their medal hope, but one which certainly buried their shot at gold. 

In the meantime, Belgium and Italy went to war up front, while the US clawed their way back into it over the next two laps. 

But no one could stop Italy, the European U20 champions, who added the world title in 3:04.05, then belted out the best rendition of their anthem we've ever heard, the entire Italian team gathering alongside the rostrum for a final, ferociously patriotic singalong.


 Aleksandra the Great

Aleksandra Nacheva ()

Sixteen years, 329 days – the age of Bulgaria's Aleksandra Nacheva on Sunday. An athlete younger than any of her rivals in the women's triple jump final. An athlete better than any of her rivals in the women's triple jump final. 

Nacheva arrived in Tampere off the back of a surprise defeat at the European U18 Championships last week, but if you think she'd let a minor detail like that get her down, you'd not be familiar with her greatness. 

In the second round, Nacheva powered down the runway and sailed out to 14.18m, a world U20 lead, the kind of jump no one in the field had ever approached before, the kind of jump that allowed her to decide, after three rounds, that she was done for the day, to sit back and watch as her older rivals tried and failed to get within a foot of her mark. She won by 37cm in the end, and like all great things, the jump was one she couldn't quite explain. 

"I didn't know where this result came from, it just came on its own," she said. 

 Welcome to Jamrock

Kai Chang ()

So, it seems the Jamaican thing in the men's discus is not just a one-man band run by senior star Fedrick Dacres. 

In the men's discus final on Sunday, Kai Chang shook up the established order with a shock success, flinging that hefty disk 62.36m to win by 61cm from Belarus's Yauheni Bahutski. 

"I hope my performance can help Jamaican discus throwing get a lot more recognition, as it's lacking there at the moment," he said. "I hope I can motivate others to get involved."

In Dacres, and now Chang, young men in the epicentre of sprinting may now develop a very different kind of role model, the pirouetting hulks, the spinning strongmen, the discus champions.  

 Magnificent Mondo

Armand Duplantis in the pole vault at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Not all the favourites lost here in Tampere. Some felt the fear (of failure) and did it anyway, producing performances that showed they are of a very different calibre to their peers, and in time may prove to be of a very different calibre to anyone. 

Mondo Duplantis went into the men's pole vault final knowing everyone and their pet hamsters expected nothing less than gold, but did it faze him? 

Nej, as they say in Swedish. 

Duplantis soared into the bright evening sky with a championship record of 5.82m, breaking old one by 11cm. Majestic. Magnificent. Mondo. 

USA, A-okay

Tia Jones on her way to winning the 100m hurdles at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Five days into the action, we still hadn't got our first gold medal for the USA, a kind of statistical anomaly that would have caused us to question whether this was some scripted reality we were watching if it continued much longer. 

We need not have worried. 

They had to wait until Saturday, but the USA finally won their first gold medal of the championships in the men’s 4x100m, ironically enough the one event they so often messed up at major championships. 

Once that seal was broken, the flow started. The following day, Tia Jones took 100m hurdles gold by the tightest margin imaginable: nothing. 

Yes, there was exactly 0.000 between her and Jamaica's Britany Anderson, who clocked the same time down to the thousandths of a second, 13.012. 

We've no idea how they decided that one. 

Coin flip? Rock-Paper-Scissors? Close your eyes and throw a dart at the page? You see, this is why we're not officials.

A game of inches

Zhang Yao and David Hurtado in the 10,000m race walk at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

It took 25 laps to separate them, and at the end of 10,000m gruelling metres in the Tampere sun, the difference between them was six thousandths of a second. 

Now, to be fair, China's Zhang Yao did start easing up early, celebrating and slowing as Ecuador’s David Hurtado produced an inspired effort to cross the line level with Zhang.

Well, almost level, 0.006 away from being level. 

It made Zhang the first athlete to have won the world U18 title, the world race walking team title, and the world U20 title. 

But only just. 

A victory shared

Antonios Merlos and Roberto Vilches celebrate winning joint gold in the high jump at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Meet Antonios Merlos and Roberto Vilches, two guys who didn't know each other before coming to Tampere. Two athletes who cleared 2.23m on the first attempts in the men's high jump final on Saturday. Two guys who, instead of continuing to jump and risk being demoted to silver, made the decision to shake hands, hug it out and both take home a gold medal. 

Yes, in the event of a tie, athletes have the choice to choose between a shared victory and a jump-off. Merlos and Vilches chose the latter, and I, for one, heartily endorse this trans-continental alliance. 

Steeple shocker

Athletes clear the water barrier in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (Getty Images)

Kenya always wins the steeplechase, as sure as water is wet and that it's quite bright in the evenings during the Finnish summers. 

These are the rules of underage championships until, of course, they're broken. 

In the U20 men's 3000m steeplechase on Sunday, a 30-year stretch of uninterrupted dominance got called to a halt by an Ethiopian, who said he was as mad as hell and not going to take it any more. Takele Nigate. 

He got into a fight-to-the-death struggle with race favourite Leonard Bett down the home straight, both men digging deep within and pulling something extra out on the run to the line. 

But this time the Ethiopian won, Nigate crossing the line to edge it in 8:25.35. 

Seems it's true what they say about all good things coming to an end. 

Farewell, Tampere. You were terrific. 

Words: Cathal Dennehy