Joy marked the final day of the IAAF World U18 Championships at Kasarani Stadium when Jackline Wambui and Leonard Bett both won gold as Kenya bagged seven medals in front of a capacity crowd yesterday.
Wambui opened the day’s medal hunt with victory in the girls’ two lap race, leading compatriot Lydia Lagat to a 1-2 Kenyan sweep in a World U18 leading time of 2:01.46, before Bett led Cleophas Meyan to a similar feat in the boys’ 2,000m steeplechase.
Having seen their male counterparts upstaged by Ethiopians the previous day, the Kenyan 800m girls trailed bronze winner Hirut Meshesha through a fast 400m completed in 1:01.53.
The diligent girls then quelled jitters as they shot forward after the bell, shaking off Meshesha before the 600m mark with Wambui in the lead and Lagat hanging in her coat tail.
With 200m left, the race increasingly turned into a Kenyan affair as Meshesha lagged further behind and Lagat battling hard to overhaul Wambui. With longer strides and a determination strengthened by the sight of the finishing line, Wambui held on to claim gold as Lagat won silver in a personal best time of 2:02.06 with Meshesha claiming bronze.
“I feel happy to have won gold. I was tense and the race was very difficult with Lagat and the Ethiopians in the chase but I managed to hold them off. It is a moment of pride for me to represent my country ably and get a gold in return,” said the 17-year-old after her victory.
Heartache then gripped the capacity crowd as experienced Ethiopian Selemon Barega zoomed in the final straight to win gold in the boys’ 3,000m ahead of Kenyan favourite Edward Zakayo and compatriot Stanley Waithaka.
A combined state of overconfidence by Kenyan lads coupled with experience from Barega, who is a constant fixture in the IAAF Diamond League circuit, contrived to deny Kenya victory in the competition’s longest distance race.
Bett and Meyan then saved Kenya’s blushes in the boys’ 2,000m steeplechase with virtuoso performances that yielded gold and silver with lanky Ethiopian Alemu Kitesa relegated to bronze medal position.