Usain Bolt, Sanya Richards-Ross, Blanka Vlasic, Meseret Defar, Tirunesh Dibaba, Lashinda Demus, Carolina Kluft and Valerie Adams. This list of Kingston 2002 world junior medallists is a who's who of bona fide athletics superstars. In front of a boisterous Jamaican crowd, the teenage Class of '02 set about becoming some of the best athletes to have ever lived.
Queen Valerie Adams of New Zealand (not the actual Queen) is undefeated in her last 47 competitions, and has 14 world, Olympic and Commonwealth shot put medals: 12 of them gold. With the Oregon 2014 World Junior Championships coming up this summer, we asked Queen V to cast her mind back 12 years.
Junior to senior
“I think it is a pretty important time in anybody’s career to compete at the world youths and world juniors. It is a great stepping stone for competing with the big dogs when you get to the senior level, because it is a completely different ball game.
“Obviously the pressure is a lot higher and the results and the level is a lot higher. To be able to have that experience at junior level is very important. With the call room times, the whole scheduling and all the rest, it is pretty much what is going on at senior level.”
Gateway to greatness
“I’ve been quite lucky that success does help. Being successful from a young age does help you to stay in the sport, and be persistent at training – and wanting more and being hungry.
“Usain Bolt was one of the athletes who came through the ranks with me, so was Carolina Kluft. And they’ve been quite amazing.
“I think it is very important, and it’s a great experience for all those young athletes wanting to continue with track and field at the elite level beyond the juniors, if they can.”
“I really, really enjoyed my junior competitions, especially the world juniors in Jamaica and gaining that experience going straight from there to Commonwealth Games. In the end, I won silver at the Commonwealth Games [in Manchester] about two weeks after I won the world juniors, so for me it was a great experience.”
Shot put princess: Adams, 17, with a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games
“The police escort from the airport to the West Indies University was quite amazing. I was only 17 and all of a sudden there is this, almost like a car chase from the airport to the university to the accommodation. That was one thing that stuck in my mind.
“And the second thing I remember would have to be the New Zealand boys doing the Haka for me after I won the gold medal. That was pretty awesome.
“Jamaica was fun and the crowd were just amazing and all so colourful and vibrant, just an amazing atmosphere to be involved in.”