Nick Griggs: Tyrone 17-year-old ninth in World Under-20 3,000m final in Colombia

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Griggs clocked a European Under-20 indoor mile record of 3:56.40 in March

Tyrone 17-year-old Nick Griggs finished ninth in the World Under-20 3,000m final in Colombia as the expected African domination materialised.

Ethiopia's Melkeneh Azize - who has a lifetime best of 7:42.95 - won the title in 7:44.06.

An extraordinarily quick opening lap of 57.72 seconds saw five athletes clear of the rest of the field in Cali.

With the damage already done, Griggs was unable to get back into contention as he crossed the line in 8:04.42.

Despite his astonishing European Under-20 3,000m gold medal last summer, it was asking a huge amount of the 17-year-old Newmills athlete to challenge for a medal in such elevated company - and with the championships also taking at an altitude of over 1,000m in Cali.

Winner Azize wasn't even the fastest in the field going into Friday's final with his compatriot Diriba Girma having clocked 7:38.79 this year - nearly 15 seconds faster than Griggs' personal best set at the Cork City Sports last month.

However, Girma didn't even manage to pick up a medal with Kenyans Felix Korir (7:47.86) and Edwin Kisalsak (7:49.82) taking the silver and bronze.

With another Kenyan Rogers Kibet fifth in 7:50.40, Denmark's Joel Lilleso, European Under-20 5,000m champion last year, was the leading European in sixth spot after attempting to stay with the Africans over the opening laps.

Ugandan Dan Kibet, who led after the opening circuit, seemed to pay for his exuberance as he faded to finish seventh in 8:02.08 - over 16 seconds outside his personal best.

The lightning fast opening 400m was followed by a more pedestrian 63-second lap but the field was already broken up and despite fluctuations in pace thereafter, hopes of a slow, tactical race which might have aided Griggs' chances had been dashed.

Eritrea's Habtom Samuel held off Griggs for eighth spot as the Irishman was the second European finisher with the Czech Republic's David Slapak (8:18.55) and Noah Konteh (8:18.61) the final two athletes across the line in 11th and 12th spots.

Heavy rain in Cali meant the race had to be delayed for just over an hour before it took place shortly after 6pm local time.

With Griggs not turning 18 until December, he will be able to continue in the under-20 grade in 2023 with the European Championships taking place in Romania next summer.

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