1. The fans
If there was one great thing about the IAAF World U18 Championships (and there were many) then it was the people. Decked out in their nation’s colours, the Kenyan fans came filing through the gates of the Kasarani Stadium each day beaming wide smiles, extending the arms to welcome the athletics world.
What made it unforgettable, however, was their support anytime their nation’s athletes took to the track, or indeed field. Whether it was a high jumper clearing a bar in warmup, a thrower unleashing a personal best in qualifying or a middle distance athlete storming to victory, they roared their support all week, creating an incredible setting for live sport. An incredible championships with the friendliest of hosts.
2. Edward Zakayo’s show of strength
Edward Zakayo became an internet sensation when a photo went viral, showing of him leisurely walking past his beaten opponents who had fallen to the ground after the semi-finals of the 3,000m steeplechase.
While the other athletes could not handle the heat, literally, Zakayo was seen as the epitome of strength and Kenyans on social media had a field day dissecting what that meant.
3. Late lead changes twice with a fall on final water jump
Kenya’s Mercy Chepkurui and Caren Chebet looked about even with 200m to go in the rarely-run 2,000m steeplechase final, ready to go 1-2 for their home crowd in Kenya.
Though Chepkurui looked to have a slight advantage at first, the final water jump changed all of that as she tripped and fell to her knees coming off the barrier, allowing compatriot Chebet an opportunity to seize the lead.
But Chepkurui kept fighting and eventually took a strong lead over Chebet. That lead proved to be not enough as Chebet unleashed a final sprint that Chepkurui could not match.
4. Mary Moraa out-kicks the boys
The mixed-gender 4x400m Relay may be a new event, but with the news of its inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, the youth athletes got some very valuable experience at the 2017 World U18s and the ability for teams to choose the order of their runners (always two male, two female) made for some very interesting races.
One of these was the first heat, in which Kenya was the only team to select a girl to be their anchor leg. Though ridiculed by many, Mary Moraa unleashed a devastating kick that even Jamaica’s Tyrese Reid and Brazil’s Alison Brendom Dos Santos could not match.
5. The 800m freestyle
The rain in Nairobi falls mostly on… the athletes. On the second day, the heavens opened and the Kasarani Stadium was subjected to an apocalyptic, save-me-I’m-drowning kind of downpour over the space of two hours.
Field event action was quickly postponed, but unfortunately for the 800m boys, they had to grin and bear it as they braved the elements on the two-lap tango. What followed was more akin to a swimming race than a track race, the blue surface in the Kasarani looking more like a pool than a track. It made for some great photos, though.
6. Kenya’s tactical blunders is Ethiopia’s gain
When it comes to the middle distance races, Kenya expects to win. So when their arch rivals from Ethiopia wade into their home stadium and defeat them at the disciplines they love best, it hurts.
But they are built tough, Ethiopians, and they took gold in the boys’ 3,000m, boys’ 800m, girls’ 1,500m and girls’ 3,000m. Lemlem Hailu and Sindu Girma were the heroines of the girls’ 1,500m final, raining on the Kenyan parade on Saturday night by taking a 1-2 and relegating the home nation’s leading hope, Edina Jebitok, to third.
7. De’Jour Russell sets permanent CR twice
You could tell that 17-year-old De’Jour Russell of Jamaica was a force to be reckoned with straight out of the 110m hurdles heats, as he already broke the Championship Record (CR) and won by almost a full half-second Thursday afternoon, splitting a 13.08. But what nobody could have predicted was that Russell was saving his best for last, and during the final he completely demolished the field.
8. Larregina’s run ends just one metre short
Having no international performances on record before the championships, Argentinia’s Elian Larregina knew he would be the underdog going in to the boys’ 400m heats. But that didn’t stop him from taking the early lead and maintaining that through 200m.
Just before 300m, it looked like he had the race won before the all-too-familiar last 100m began to take its toll. Larregina took a dive for the line with five meters to go, and he ended up just short, having to eventually get up and walk across in 59 seconds.
9. Poole proves that size doesn’t matter
At 17, five feet and seven inches tall, South Africa’s Breyton Poole is far from what most would consider champion high-jumper material. But at World Youths, Poole proved his skeptics wrong as he took the overall title in 2.24 metres, beating out second-place by a full 10th of a metre. Poole has been jumping since the ripe age of 10 years old, and he’s only continued to improve every year since then.
10. Vivian Cheptoo arrives late, disqualified She had been
Kenya’s hope in girls’ discus but Vivian Cheptoo never got the chance to show her prowess. Reason? She arrived “late” and was disqualified. His coach Nicholas Mureithi defended himself, saying: “I thought we were to arrive 30 minutes to the event when we were supposed to be there one hour earlier.”
A distraught Cheptoo would blame carelessness on the part of her management for the blunder a day later and who knows, maybe that could have been Kenya’s only medal in field events.