Kenya jumped to the top of medal standings on Friday evening after bagging two gold and two silver medals in quick succession on the Third Day of 10th and final IAAF World Under18 Championships at Kasarani.
George Manangoi sparked the gold rush with a scintillating display in the boys 1,500m final before Caren Chebet led Mercy Chepkurui to an incredible 1-2 Kenyan in the girls’ 2,000m steeplechase.
Kisii County sprints sensation Mary Moraa completed the day’s medal haul by bursting her lungs in the final stretch to claim silver in the girls’ 400m. Deprived of compatriot and race favourite Dominic Kipkemboi from the boys’ mile final owing to injury sustained in the semis, Manangoi was backed all the way by a partisan home crowd that had hitherto been starved of glory in the chilly stadium.
Sibling to world silver medallist and 2016 Diamond Trophy winner in the mile Elijah, the younger Manangoi trailed Ethiopians Abebe Dessassa and Belete Mekonen with Uganda’s Daniel Kiprop equally laying claim to glory.
They raced through a fast 400m which Dessassa led in 1:03.16. Mekonen was in-front through the second lap with Manangoi lurking in fourth place. The 17-year-old Kenyan trailed into the last 400m, only pouncing in the 200m bend with a terrific speed that saw him zoom past the three race leaders.
Manangoi stopped the clock at 3:47.53 to bag Kenya’s first gold as the Ethiopians settled for silver and bronze with Uganda’s Kiprop shy of podium place in fourth. In the girls’ 2,000m steeplechase, Chepkurui suffered a devastating fall in the last water jump, ceasing her healthy lead to Chebet.
She gathered herself and with admirable resilience clawed back her lead only to fade of in the last 50m, letting Chebet claim gold in 6:24.80. Chekurui finished two seconds behind in 2:26.10 with Ethiopia’s Etelemahu Sintayehu settled for bronze.
The Kenyan girls collaborated to neutralise Ethiopians with speed busts every lap at the bell bend. The team tactic paid off as their opponents trailed by 30m with 300m left, according Chepkurui time and space to get a medal ii the wake of untimely fall.
In girls 400m, Moraa summoned her strength in the final straight, clawing a huge gap between her and race leaders to bag second place in a personal best time of 53.
1 behind Barbora Malikova of Czech Republic who won gold in 52.74 Lydia Jeruto was a class act in girls’ 800m semi-finals in which she ran in front of a six pack before gliding away unchallenged with 200m left and acknowledging the crowd with a two hand wave as she hit the finishing line.
Racing without any notable threat in Heat One, Jeruto afforded a slow 1:05.55 opening lap and ran a faster 1:04.97 in the second for a combined 2:10.47. Milena Korbut of Poland finished in 2:11.31 while Lena Kieffer of Luxembourg crossed the line third in 2:11.95.
Jackline Wambui soon joined in Sunday evening finals by comfortably winning the second semi in a near carbon copy of the first semi-final. She led the pool to a slow 1:08.95 opening 400m and cut the time by three seconds in the final lap for a 2:14.18.
Her time was 9th overall but nonetheless will be in the final. Gold medalist in 1,500m George Manangoi is excited to have opened the gold hunt for Team Kenya in the World U18 Championship.
“I thank God for granting me the strength as well as my parents who were part of the crowd that really motivated me through the race. After Dominic Kipkemboi sustained an injury I knew Kenya’s hope for gold was squarely on me and I could not fail my fans. My strategy was to stay with the pack and break in the last 300m because I have the kick and it paid off,” he said.
His 2,000m Steeplechase counterpart Caren Chebet was beyond herself with joy. ‘I am very happy to achieve this on such a stage. I thank my coach for instilling discipline in me thus enabling me to win,” she said.
“I am very disappointed for losing gold. I tumbled at the last hurdle while in the lead and that cost me the gold I was eyeing after finishing second in the national qualifiers,” opined Mercy Chepkurui