Year in Review: How Kenya ruled the World U-20 Championship in Finland
- Kenya ruled the world of athletics topping the medal standings at the IAAF World U20 Athletics Championships held in Tampere, Finland in 2018.
- The Kenyans kicked off the championship on a higher note with the sensational Rhonex Kipruto opening the medals account for Kenya after winning Kenya’s first gold medal in men’s 10,000m in the opening day of the championship.
Kenya ruled the world of athletics topping the medal standings at the IAAF World U20 Athletics Championships held in Tampere, Finland in 2018.
The Kenyans kicked off the championship on a higher note with the sensational Rhonex Kipruto opening the medals account for Kenya after winning Kenya’s first gold medal in men’s 10,000m in the opening day of the championship.
The 19-year-old won the race in a championship record of 27:21.08 minutes after destroying a strong field that comprised of the then bronze medalist Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda who settled for silver in 27:40.36 while Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi settled for bronze in 27:48.41.
On the same day, Beatrice Chebet added another gold medal in the women’s 5,000m after bringing to an end Ethiopia’s dominance in the discipline that stretches to a decade.
World U-18 1,500m champion George Manangoi, younger brother of World Champion Elijah Managoi, snatched gold in the third day of the competition while compatriot Justus Soget settled for bronze after Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen sandwiched the Kenyans to spoil a 1-2 finish.
Celliphine Chespol once again showcased her class as she clinched a gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase in a championship record of 9:12.78 shaving 13 seconds from her record of 9:25.15 that she set at the 2016 championship held in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
The 2018 IAAF Rising Star Award finalist also got into the history books as she became the first athlete to defend her U-20 title.
Elsewhere, Solomon Lekuta preserved Kenyan tradition in the 800m as he led compatriot Kipngetich Ngeno to a 1-2 finish clocking 1:46.35 and 1:46.45 respectively.
It was a similar story in the 5,000m men as Edward Zakayo and Stanley Waithaka clinched gold and silver respectively. The Kenyan duo outwitted the pre-race favourite and defending champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia.
Despite Kenya’s success in the championship, it did not go without surprises as Kenya relinquished gold in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase for the first time in the championship since its inception in 1986.
The gold medal eluded Kenya for the first time as race favourite Leonard Kipkemoi Bett, the World U18 2,000m steeplechase champion faded away in the latter stages of the race, as Ethiopia’s Takele Nigate smiled all the way to bagging the top honours in what was his first international competition.
Nigate’s heroics brought to an end Kenya’s dominance in the race in 15 consecutive seasons.
Similarly, Kenya’s quest to capture the 1,500m women’s title went up in smoke after the more experienced Alemaz Samuel of Ethiopia beat Miriam Cherop to gold as Ethiopians continued with their fine run in the middle distance race.
Focus shift to Nairobi
With a total of 11 medals; six gold, four silver and one bronze, Kenya topped the standings out of the 43 countries that graced the event with the bigger picture derived from the biennial competition is that the country’s future in the sport is promising.
It is also worth noting that it was an improvement on the 2016 performance where Kenya had finished second with 9 medals behind USA (21).
After successfully hosting the World U-18 championships in 2017, Kenya is once again poised to host the 2020 World U-20 after a successful bid that was endorsed by IAAF Council in July, 2018.
Leaders from the sporting fraternity expressed their delight after hitting yet another milestone of hosting an international event on home soil in a span of three years.
“The Executive Committee of AK, athletes and entire athletics fraternity are very excited to receive the good news from the IAAF that Kenya has been selected to host the World U20 Championships in 2020. It is indeed a great honour to us all, particularly the great athletes who have significantly contributed to the development of world athletics over the years. All are welcomed back to Kenya, the home of heroes.” the president of Athletics Kenya (AK), Lt Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei said.
“On behalf of the Kenyan Government, I would like to say that we welcome the decision that has been reached by the IAAF top brass to settle on the Republic of Kenya to host the prestigious IAAF World U20 Championships in the year 2020. It is indeed a great honour to be considered and selected to host the event. On behalf of Kenyan Government, I assure you that we will ensure that we put our best foot forward and put the necessary plans, systems and structures in place to ensure that the event runs smoothly and successfully. We welcome the world to Kenya,” said Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa.
With the pace now set at the top nothing less is expected when the championships come home in July 7-12.
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