James Magayi and Lynette Matheka @PeopleSports11
Emmaculate Chepkirui bagged Kenya’s first medal of the 10th and final IAAF Under 18 World Championships last evening when running in a rain-soaked Kasarani Stdium, she clocked 9:24.69 for silver in the girls’ 3,000m.
The tense race, which was restarted three times owing to technical hitches, saw Kenya’s second contender in the race Beatrice Chebet finish fourth in 9:33.26 as Ethiopian Abersh Minsewo and Yitayish Mekonene scooped gold and bronze medals.
In a jittery race owing to the numerous restarts, the 13 athletes started slowly, a precedence that later played well into the hands of Minsewo as she out sprinted Chepkirui in the final straight to break the hearts of Kenyan fans who had braved the evening showers to cheer the juniors.
Chebet led into the opening 1,000m in 3:23.16 as Chepkirui stayed seventh within the pack. Mekonene crossed first into the last 1,000m before Chekirui shot forward with a busting sprint.
An interesting duel between Chekirui and Minsewo ensued in the last lap, ending with the Ethiopian as victor. Chekirui expressed mixed feelings for the silver, saying: “I feel partly happy for winning Kenya’s first medal and partly sad for missing out on the gold. I really hoped it would be a gold but I have to accept what I have.”
Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared free entry to the event for all Kenyan spectators starting today. Initially, admission to the stadium attracted a fee of Sh200 for non-accredited athletics enthusiasts and the first day was poorly-attended.
Uhuru was speaking during the official opening ceremony where before his speech, he observed a moment of silence for departed Interior cabinet secretary Major-General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery, the events’ co-chairperson of the organising committee who passed away last Saturday.
He thanked the international committee for giving Kenya the chance to host the final U18 event, the second African country to do so after Morocco in 2005.
He also said the platform has offered youth a chance to showcase talent and countries to create future champions, arguing that Kenya’s dominance in athletics could be attributed to the good performances in the Under 18 championships.
“Sports not only makes our bodies stronger but strengthens collaborations, builds discipline, plays a vital role in international relations and gives us a unique opportunity to stand as one irrespective of geography, creed or language,” he said.