NAIROBI (July14) - George Meitamei Manangoi and Caren Chebet salvaged Kenya’s gold medal drought on Friday. The hosts ended the third day of the five-day World Under 18 Championships with a two-gold and one silver medal blitz to take second spot behind Cuba on the medal table before a thunderous crowd at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
The lanky younger brother of world 1,500m silver medallist, Elijah Manangoi, gave Kenya her first gold medal at these Championships when he outsprinted two Ethiopians on the home stretch to win the 1,500m race.
This was followed by a gold and silver finish in the girls’ 2,000m steeplechase where Caren Chebet and Mercy Chepkurui took the first two positions, the former in 6:24.80 and the latter in 6:26.10. Etalemahu Sintayehu of Ethiopia took bronze in 6:35.79.
With the hosts feeling an unprecedented medal draught on the third day of the five-day global competition, Manangoi waited until the bell to attack from a fourth position where he remained conveniently behind Ethiopians Belete Mekonen and Abebe Dessasa and Anass Essayi of Morocco.
At the 200m bend, Manangoi engaged a higher gear that triggered panic button on Ethiopians, who fought back, but realised it was fruitless when the winner’s long strides glided past at the bend to the home stretch when he opened a wide lead to win in 3:47.53, some 10 metres ahead of Dessassa (3:48.65) and Mekonen (3:60.54).
“I am happy to have won my country the first gold medal of the competition. I thank God, my dad, family and the crowd that motivated me during the race,” said Manangoi, adding; “my strategy was to stay with the pack and break in the last 300 metres because I have the kick. I also received a message from Asbel Kiprop today; this really gave me confidence. I could not let Kenya and the crowd down. I had to repay for the support.”
Kenya's 2000m steeplechase gold medalist, Mercy Chepkurui (C) team mate Caren Chebet (Silver) and bronze medalist Etalemahu Sintayehu (L) from Ethiopia pose after receiving their medals in the ongoing World Under 18 Championship at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, July 14, 2017. Picture: LOC/Noor Khamis (Kenya)
Chebet said she was happy to have competed on the big stage. “I thank my coaches who have instilled discipline in me enabling me to win.”
Mary Moraa, a towering figure in national and regional schools sprints events, took silver in her first international race when she finished second to Barbora Malikova of Czech Republic (52.74) in the girls 400m. The 17-year-old form three student of Mogonga Mixed Secondary School in Kisii County finished in 53.31.
“I am very happy to win a silver medal at home. The crowd really motivated me to give my best in the last metres,” she said.
Moraa had earlier in the day run the 200m first round where she appeared to jog to sixth place in 25.48 secs not to drain her strength for the 200m final. The race was won by Gayane Chiloyan of Armenia in 24.64 secs.
Lydia Jeruto Lagat and Jackline Wambui dashed to the girls 800m final in style, each winning her heat before a roaring crowd who cheered on complete with Mexican wave.
Lagat, a student of Poror High school in Baringo, was the first to win her heat in 2:10.47 with Milena Korbut of Poland second in 2:11.31.
Wambui then outsprinted Ethiopia’s Hirut Meshesha in the second heat to win in 2:14.18, as the latter followed in 2:14.45.
Kenyans and Ethiopians will battle it out in the 2,000m steeplechase final after the host nation, renowned for the water and barrier race, entered both athletes each in the final.
Cleophas Kandie Meyan was second in the first heat of steeplechase race after clocking 5:51.83 behind Ethiopia’s Alemu Kitessa who won in 5:49.79.
Leonard Kipkemoi Bett won the second race in 5:46.66 with another Ethiopian Girma Diriba second in 5:47.86.
In the third heat of boys’ 200m, Philemon Mopia finished third (21.79) to qualify for the semi-finals, behind Luis Brandner of Germany (21.23) and Vasyl Makukh of Ukraine (21.62).
Gloria Mulei finishes sixth in girls triple jump qualification’s Group B in 12.46 meres won by Qiujiao Tan of China in 13.16 metres. Zulia Hernandez of Cuba won Group A with 12.92.
Field events still proved a challenge to the hosts as Joseph Nyakundi Nyaanga finished 10th (30.45m) in discus Group A which was won by Claudio Romero of Chile in 59.08 metres. Victor KIplimo was 16th overall in the hammer throw 43.61, a personal best, which was won by Mykhaylo Kokhan of Ukraine in 82.31 metres.
Similarly, triple jump was disastrous for the hosts, with Vincent Kipkoech Kilel coming off ninth out of 12 competitors, a jump of 14.89 metres, a far cry from Cuban winner, Jordan Diaz, whose 17.30 metre jump was a world under 18 best.
Kenya and Ethiopia will have to battle for supremacy in girls 800m and 2,000m steeplechase.
(Isaack Omulo www.wu18nairobi2017.com)