Watch out world, Sasha Zhoya has arrived.
At just 16, the teenager has set the track and field community alight with a blistering showing at the national championships in Sydney this week, smashing records at will.
The West Australian blitzed the field in the Under-18 110m hurdles on Friday, defying a headwind to cross the line first in 13.05 seconds — a national record for the age group. It also beat his previous personal best of 13.24 and smashed the world record time for a 16-year-old in the event, which stood at 13.13 before Zhoya’s incredible run.
It was another extraordinary effort on the track which came the day after Zhoya won gold in the Under-20 200m. He finished in 21.18 — 0.3 seconds off the national record — but would have given the mark a real crack had he not been battling an inconvenient breeze.
“You give him a tailwind and he’s flogging that record,” one commentator said in a clip released by Athletics Australia.
With performances like those it’s easy to see why the athletics world is fawning over the freakish young gun. But those two sensational runs don’t even tell the full story of Zhoya’s week.
He started his record-breaking run on day one of the national championships when he set a new benchmark in the Under-18 pole vault, clearing 5.56m. Zhoya outdid Emmanouilt Karali of Greece, who sailed over 5.55m in 2016.
But adding an intriguing twist to Zhoya’s story is the possibility he might not just be Australia’s to enjoy. The Perth-based star’s mother is a former French skier, meaning the teen phenomenon is also eligible to represent France.
But fans Down Under who’ve seen this week what Zhoya is capable of will be desperate to watch him in the green and gold.
Athletics Australia is reportedly doing everything it can to prevent France from poaching Zhoya and the teenager isn’t giving much away before the time comes to make a call on his future at the end of the year.
“Right now it’s definitely a tug of war,” he said, per the Herald.
“I consider myself Australian, absolutely. Being born here, I grew up here, all my friends are here. In my heart I want to do Australia but I need to see how things go. It’s a struggle.”
John Steffenson, who won silver with Australia in the 4x400m relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics and individual and relay gold in the 400m at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games two years later also saw a bright future for the up-and-comer, saying his potential is “out of this world”.
“Right now, whatever he wants to achieve he will achieve, it’s up to him. There’s no ceiling,” Steffenson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“What’s more special about Sasha is the way he demonstrates his passion when he performs. He’s got his own style, his own swag and he represents it and he lives it. Any sport loves a young, successful, marketable male or female. It makes the job easier to promote the sport.”
Former Australian Olympian Matt Shirvington — whose pet event was the 100m — was in awe of the young gun.
“This kid is unbelievable!!” Shirvington tweeted as he listed Zhoya’s amazing achievements. “He’ll compete in the men’s open pole vault and 100m over the weekend … oh and he’s only 16!
In December, Zhoya told The West Australian he doesn’t just want to be the biggest name in track and field in Australia, he wants to dominate the world — just like sprinting legend Usain Bolt.
“We’ve had a couple of big names in Australia and I want to be the biggest,” Zhoya said. “To be No. 1 in the world out of everyone that does athletics, that’s the dream. I want to show the world what I can do.
“Not everyone can be Usain Bolt but I’m going to work my butt off to be Usain Bolt as Sasha Zhoya.”