Twenty-six young Kenyans with promising futures in athletics will carry the country’s flag in Tampere, Finland, the setting for the 17th edition of IAAF World Under 20 Championships, commencing today.
The biennial event, previously known as World Junior Championships was renamed to World Under 20 in 2015 and has been won three times by Kenya since its inception in 1986, with only USA garnering more titles.
Kenya’s last triumph came in Moncton, Canada eight years ago with other medal-topping feats registered in Beijing, China 2006 and Santiago, Chile 2000. Kenya finished second in the last edition staged in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz two years ago, scooping five gold medals, two bronze and as many silvers.
The first medals are expected today in the conclusion of the men’s 10,000m race and women’s 5,000m. Kenya is ably represented in the men’s 10,000m by highly-rated Rhonex Kipruto and Solomon Boit.
Nineteen-year-old Kipruto recorded his personal best time of 27:49.6 over the distance this year and possesses considerable experience in the race. Boit also timed 28:18.1 this year and alongside Kipruto, are podium materials. Worryingly though is that the race’s top seed is Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo who at 18, has two sub 28 minute times over the distance under his belt. Kiplimo won bronze in Bydgoszcz two years ago and is thus the race favourite as he returns with vast experience but the Kenyan duo carry a potent chance of turning the tables.
The race set for 6.50pm (Kenyan time) will likely be an East
African affair as the 10 top rated athletes are all from the region save for Japanese Takuro Miura.
The men’s 10,000m is among the five races Kenya won in the last edition. Rodgers Kwemoi set the championship record of 27:26.68 trailed by Eritrea’s Aron Kifle. “This is about endurance over the long distance then power and pace to finish strongly.
Whoever has these attributes will surely carry the day in Finland but I feel that I have trained well enough to go all the way.
I will give it my best shot and bring glory to the country. Senior athletes have done so in the past and now I have the opportunity to also show what I can do,” said Kipruto.
A second Kenyan duo is tasked with bettering last edition’s performance to bring gold in the women’s 5,000m. Helen Lobun and Beatrice Chebet will enter the fray at 5.40 pm in the 12.5-lap race hoping to improve Emmaculate Chepkirui’s silver into gold albeit under pressure from highly-rated Sarah Chelangat of Uganda.