NAIROBI, July 17 – The national junior athletics team jetted back home from Poland to a rousing reception on Wednesday night.
Jubilant parents, athletics officials, classmates and members of parliament thronged the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to welcome the juniors who finished third at the just concluded World Athletics Championships in Bydgoszcz.
Kenya clinched four gold medals, five silvers and two bronze to finish behind the United States and Germany who claimed the top two spots.
There were emotional scenes as excited parents and friends hugged their high performing children at the international arrival lounge before breaking into song and dance.
Speaking shortly after arrival, team manager Kimutai Ng’etich said the coaches were content with the juniors’ performances despite the team relinquishing the overall title they won in 2006.
“Other teams had such huge contingents compared to our 23. The US had 86 athletes while Germany had 84 and so to even run them close is a wonderful achievement,” said Ng’etich.
“We had a very young team with almost half of the athletes never having competed outside the country before. Also if you look at some of our competitors, they are proceeding to the Olympics so they already had a lot of experience,” he added.
He gave an example of World Indoor champion Abubaker Kaki of Sudan who was pushed to the very end by Geoffrey Kibet; “despite the Sudanese boy having run 1:42 this year, Kibet gave him a fright and that was an example of how determined the athletes were.”
Ngetich said that World junior 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Joanthan Muia Ndiku had produced the stand out performance of the championships.
“He was up against Uganda’s Benjamin Kiplagat who is very experienced and is going to the Olympics. He had a 20 metre lead on Muia in the final lap but our boy chased him down, passed him and opened a 10 metre lead to win a gold medal that we had given up on,’ Ng’etich recalled.
Athletics Kenya secretary General David Okeyo was also full of praise of the team. “The juniors did very well considering that we had several of them who were barely 16 years and who representing Kenya for the very first time. If anything we can say that we have a bright future ahead of us,” he said.
The team will be hosted to breakfast by the minister for Sports Hellen Sambili on Thursday morning.
Gold- Josphat Bett (10,000m), Mercy Cherono (3,000m), Christine Kambua Muyanga (3,000m steeplechase) and Jonathan Muia (3,000m steeplechase)
Silver – Titus Mbishei (10,000m), James Magut (1500m), Elizabeth Mueni (3,000m steeplechase), Mathew Kisorio (5,000m), Geoffrey Kibet (800m)
Bronze- Nelly Chebet (5,000m) and Patrick Terer (3,000m steeplechase)