NAIROBI, July 11 – Barefooted, Christine Kambua Muyanga shattered the Championship record as she led home a Kenyan one-two in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase with a textbook front-running display at the World Junior Championships on Thursday night.
The Japan based teenager took control less than two laps into the race and slowly squeezed the life out of the opposition to run home a clear winner in 9:31.35 – a personal best by more than 26 seconds.
“I ran barefooted because of an injury but my first impression after the race is wonderful,” said Muyanga who finished 12th in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships in March. “I’ve never been at a World Junior Championships before, that is the reason my happiness is doubled.”
17-year-old Muyanga became frustrated with the slow first lap and burst to the front, gradually increasing the early modest pace.
With five laps remaining the diminutive Kenyan had whittled the main group down to five which also included; compatriot Elizabeth Mueni, Ethiopian duo Korahubish Itaa and Halima Hassen, and Latvia’s European Junior bronze medallist Polina Jelizarova.
However, the Latvian soon cracked and at 2,000m – reached in 6:24.24 – Mueni and Hassen were struggling to keep pace.
Muyanga slowly stretched her lead on the penultimate lap and held a 15m lead at the bell from Itaa, who was a similar length clear of Mueni and Hassen.
But while Muyanga, who won a silver medal at last year’s World Youth Championships, marched unchallenged to the gold medal a three-way battle ensued for the minor medals.
Itaa was rapidly slowing and Mueni’s intelligently timed late bid took her to the silver medal in a personal best of 9:36.50. Itaa clung on for bronze in a national junior record of 9:37.81 and Hassen was fourth in 9:38.44.
All four athletes eclipsed the previous championship record of 9:40.95 set by Kenyan Caroline Chepkurui in 2006. Each 1000m split had been faster than the next with the last 1000m covered by Muyanga in 3:07.11.
In the men’s 1500 metres, Algeria’s Imad Touil pulled off a stunning sprint finish to edge out James Kiplagat Magut in an exciting final.
Magut lead for the majority of the last lap, having kicked at the bell, and looked an odds-on winner for almost the entire length of the home straight.
But while everyone was watching a late burst from Ethiopia’s Demma Barba, Touil came from nowhere to pass them both over the last few strides.
On the tactical first 400 metres, covered in 62.22, Kenya’s Frederick Musyoki was doing much of the front-running. With the bell providing a signal for Magut to surge to the front and Musyoki to go with him, lap three’s split was 58.61.
Magut pushed ahead, but was too concerned with the challenge from the Ethiopian to worry about Touil.
“In the last few metres, I was watching the Ethiopian,” said Magut. “I didn’t see the Algerian runner coming on the other side.”
Kenya now has two gold medals, three silver and a single bronze and is ranked third in the medal standings.