Ilona Hadhoum digs in to summon brilliant Junior World Championship title
It was an emotional and brilliant 2023 Junior World Championship title for rising French star Ilona Hadhoum who obliterated the disappointment of Montreal a year ago with a superb win in Hamburg on Thursday afternoon.
After a swim that left the rest of the field chasing the 19-year-old’s wake, the bike packs came together before slick conditions saw several athletes come down and the field splinter over the last lap. Hadhoum herself almost came down after slipping off the pedal by the dismount line, but she rallied and steadied and soon put together a title-winning 5km to the gold.
“My swim is my best segment, so I was quite disappointed last year because the Junior World Championship was moved to a duathlon, and I finished 7th. So this year I was going to go all in in the swim. And then on the run I just went full gas. I am really happy with my performance today, I was not expecting it,” said a delighted Hadhoum.
Light rain was easing off as the 60 athletes lined up on the egde of the Binnenalster in the heart of Hamburg, and Hadhoum was soon finding clear water out ahead, Tabea Huys of Austria giving chase but unable to do much about the 25 second lead that the French talent was carving out by the time she was out of the tunnel and up into transition.
Huys and Vrablova were trying to push the pace on but the group failed to find a rhythm and were gradually reeled in so that by the end of the third of four laps there were 24 athletes flying around the final stages of the bike together.
As thoughts turned to transition, two crashes over the closing stages saw the pack splinter as the brakes were slammed, Nadas’ race finished. Then Rhianna Hepburn (AUS) and Aniek Mars (NED) went flying heading in to T2 just after Hadhoum had almost seen her race take a turn at the dismount, Emma Olson-Keating (AUS) also well set as the 5km run got underway.
From the opening strides, it always looked like Hadhoum’s race, putting in 10 seconds over teammate Laporte by the end of lap one and holding firm as De La Pena ran her way into second, Laporte comfortable in third from Germany’s Johanna Uhrek and Vrablova in fifth.