Bett, Kirui strike gold as Kenya finishes 2nd in Poland
Kenya closed her IAAF World Under 20 Championships charge in Bydgoszcz, Poland with two gold medals from Kipyegon Bett in the men 800m and Amos Kirui who maintained the country’s rich tradition by taking the honours in the men 3000m steeplechase on Sunday.
World Youth champion, Willy Kiplimo Tarbei completed the 1-2 in the last distance final of the programme as Kenya finished second overall to United States (11 gold, six silver, four bronze) with five gold, two silver and two bronze.
It was even more rewarding for the juniors when Bett and Tarbei took the country above the old enemy Ethiopia who finished third in the final medal chart (four gold, two silver, four bronze) after they edged ahead when Adanech Anbesa and Fantu Worku ran to the 1-2 in the women 1500m final.
Kirui, the silver medallist at the 2014 Youth Olympics Games in Nanjing, China ran a World Under 20 leading time of 8:20.43 for the 3000m steeplechase title.
Eritrea’s Yemane Haileselassie came home in 8:22.67 for silver as Vincent Kipyegon Ruto lost the furious battle for bronze by one hundredth of a second to Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale.
The clocks retured 8:22.83 against 8:22.84.
In the men 800m showdown, Bett reversed the finishing order from last year’s World Under 18 Championships in Cali, Colombia when he led Tarbei (1:45.50) to the line in a season’s best of 1:44.95 as the pair once again claimed the two top medals.
Morocco’s Mostafa Smaili took the bronze in 1:46.02.
It was a strong front-running performance by Bett, who led from the 200-metres point onward, to turn the tables on Tarbei who finished ahead of him at last year’s IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015.
“I lost to Willy last year but this time I expected to win after I finished first at the Kenyan Trials this year,” Bett, who clocked a PB 1:44.4 in the Nairobi race told the IAAF.
“My only problem was the finishing kick, and I worked hard on that this year.” That didn’t show as he collected Kenya’s tenth world U20 title over the distance.
“I’m not disappointed to lose to my teammate,” his compatriot Tarbei, who clocked 1:45.50 added.
“I have an injured toe that that was not a big problem today. Our tactic today was to run together, it is easier to run fast that way.”
They did just that, controlling the tempo from the break. First they brushed off Brian Bell of the US who gave chase over the first lap, and then both Jesus Tonatiu Lopez of Mexico, who briefly ran third down the back straight on the second lap.
And finally Morocco’s Smaili, who powered past the Mexican on the final bend to cruise to the bronze, the first ever medal in the event at these championships for Morocco.
Lopez was a distant fourth in 1:46.70 with Canada’s Robert Heppenstall (1:47.33) fifth.
Kirui kept Kenya’s perfect U20 World Championships streak in the 3000m Steeplechase alive for the 15th* consecutive edition, but his victory didn’t come until after one of the week’s most ferociously entertaining contests on the track.
“It was a stunning victory,” said Kirui who succeeded Barnabas Kipyego and had a previous best of 8:37.4.
“I wanted to fight for the championships record. Now I want to focus on fighting for a place in the Diamond League,” he added.
Kirui pulled away unchallenged on the home stretch, with Haileselassie and Ruto giving chase.
But some 25 metres from the finish, the pursuers for the minor medals found themselves yet again joined by Wale. In a rough and tumble battle at the line, Haileselassie got the upper hand for silver with Wale, diving across the line in front of Ruto to take the bronze.
Haileselassie, who was the fastest U20 runner in the Bydgoszcz field at 3:22.52, was also pleased.
“I expected to fight for a medal here,” the 18-year-old said. “It was a close finish, but I know I should never give up.”
Neither did Wale, but he paid for his efforts. For several minutes after he dove across the line, he barely moved. Eventually he was roused, lifted from the track and driven away on a stretcher. He missed the medal ceremony while he was attended to by medics, but was not transported to a hospital.
Material from IAAF used to compile this report
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