By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
NANJING, China -- Suriname athlete Miquel van Assen claimed gold in the men’s triple jump on Monday at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. On Friday, the Surinamese youngster became the favourite to cop the gold medal when he qualified for the finals with a 16.29 meters jump, four centimeters short of his 16.33 meters personal best.
Gold medalist Miquel van Assen of Suriname poses for photos during the awards ceremony of the Men's Triple Jump at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, on Monday, Photo: Chen Cheng
However, in Monday’s finals a 16.15 meters jump was enough to secure the gold and a place in Suriname sporting history. Van Assen became the country’s second athlete ever to win a gold medal at an Olympic tournament. At the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, swimmer Anthony Nesty won gold in the men’s 100 meter butterfly in 53.00 seconds.
“I am so proud to win a gold medal for Suriname. It was not easy, but I got it,” the 18-year-old athlete said after the finals.
With his first attempt in the finals van Assen reached the 16.15 meters mark. His next two jumps fell short at respectively 16.06 meters and 15.76 meters. His closest rival, Tobia Bocchi (Italy) ended with 16.01 meters to claim silver while Nazim Babayev from Azerbadjan copped bronze.
After winning the event, van Assen made a victory round on the tracks carrying a Surinamese flag.
“Today I don’t care about the distance he covered. The gold medal is more important,” Lazaro Calderon, his Cuban coach and trainer told journalists.
In 2013 and earlier this year, the gold medalist won gold at the CARIFTA Games. His 2013 success he repeated in style with a CARIFTA record at 16.33 meters.
In July, Van Assen also set a meet record during the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in Mexico when he trashed the old record of 15.20 meters with his 16.01 meters jump.
It is expected that the young athlete will receive a hero’s welcome on his return to Suriname.