On Your Marks: Get, Set, Go! Will champions Kenya reign supreme on home ground?
Amos Abuga and Vincent Voiyoh
All eyes will be on Kenya from today as curtains open for the World Athletics Under-20 Championships at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, in Nairobi.
Almost 1,000 athletes representing 119 teams will be in action when the championships, dubbed Nairobi 21, kicks off today until Sunday.
It will be interesting to see whether Kenya, who topped the medals standings in the last event in Tampere, Finland, in 2018 will retain the laurels.
Nairobi 21 will be the second biggest event to be staged in Kenya this year after a successful World Rally Championship Safari Rally in June.
Expectations are high and it will serve as a big test of Kenya’s ability to host future senior World Athletics events.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open the championship.
In a pre-event press conference,World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said that he was looking forward to a great athletic event in Nairobi.
“This is a big moment for Kenya, the second biggest athletics event this year. It will prove to be a huge competitive outlet for so many countries and viewers around the world to enjoy these championships”.
Coe also recalled the success that Kenya had in 2017 hosting the World Under-18 Championships and expressed confidence of a similar show again in Nairobi, though without spectators due to Covid -19.
“Those of us who were here in 2017 will remember that this was a very fantastic championship.
Sadly on this occasion for very obvious reasons we don’t have the noisy, personable and informed fans that Kenya athletics has always produced. Nonetheless, this will still be an outstanding championship.
In Tampere, Kenyans kicked off the championship on a high note with Rhonex Kipruto opening the medals account for the country after winning Kenya’s first gold medal in men’s 10,000m on the opening day of the championship. The event has now been struck off.
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. Kenya will be counting on Maurine Cherotich and Zena Jemutai for glory.
George Manangoi snatched gold on 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. Kenyan will be counting on Vincent Keter and Kamar Etiang to reciprocate that performance.
Celliphine Chespol showcased her class as she successfully defended her gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase.
In Nairobi, Jackline Chepkoech and Faith Cherotich will be tasked to maintain the status quo.
Solomon Lekuta preserved Kenyan tradition in the 800m as he led compatriot Kipngetich Ngeno to a 1-2 finish. In Nairobi the onus will be on Noah Kibet and Emmanuel Wanyonyi.
Edward Zakayo and Stanley Waithaka clinched gold and silver respectively in the men’s 5,000m. In Nairobi, the country will be counting on Levi Kibet and Benson Kiplangat to deliver.
Despite Kenya’s success in the championships, it did not go without surprises as Kenya relinquished gold in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase for the first time since its inception in 1986.
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.
This week Purity Chepkurui and Winnie Jemutai have an opportunity to capture the title.
graduated to the senior rank having surpassed the age limit bracket following the postponement of the event by a year due to coronavirus pandemic.
The Form Two student at Korongo High School in Elgeyo Marakwet County, is ready to make amends.
“Unlike in Tampere where I was the only Kenyan in the event, now I have company and a strong one.
My aim is to make the podium having finished fifth in Tampere,” declared the athlete who trains at Kapsait Athletics Training Camp.