NAIROBI, Kenya, July 23- Uganda struck first blood as Joshua Cheptegei clinched 10,000m gold with Kenya bagging two medals on the opening day of competition at the IAAF World Juniors in Eugene, Oregon.
Elvis Cheboi and Nicholas Kosimbei trailed the first champion of the Oregon World Juniors for silver and bronze as the 10,000m men title eluded Kenya for the second successive edition of the biennial global showpiece.
In the middle distance heats, silver medallist from Barcelona, Hillary Ng’etich, kept his hopes of ascending to the middle step of the rostrum when he made the semis of the men 1500m.
However, it was compatriot Jonathan Sawe, the winner of the Kenyan Trials for Oregon, who set the fastest mark of the day in winning the first heat in 3:41.35. Ng’etich sealed his place by finishing second in 3:48.40 running in the third preliminary.
Women 800m duo, Margaret Wambui (2:04.24) won heat three as team mate Maximila Imali (2:06.91) barely hang on for third in the second race as both made the semis.
Raymond Kibet (47.91) became the first Kenyan to crash out of competition in the men 400m in a sixth finish as hopeful Alexander Sampao (46.91) won his heat as he seeks to improve on his wooden spoon finish at last year’s Donetsk World Youth.
Cheptengei outclasses Kenyans
The race that mattered on the opening night of action was the medal showdown over 25 laps where Cheptegei, the only junior to run under 28 minutes this year, fulfilled his role as favourite to take the first gold at the historic Hayward Field track.
By the time he was done, 28:32.86 read on the clock as he held off a strong challenge from Cheboi and Kosimbei in the final two laps, finishing with a final 400m burst of 59.6, to capture a memorable victory.
Cheboi came home second after being unable to respond to Cheptegei’s final move with 200 metres to go, crossing the line in 2:35.20, while Kosimbei was third in 28:38.68.
The winner was part of the chase pack which overtook early leaders Keisuke Nakatani and Hazuma Hattori, both of Japan, and held off strong challenges from Kenyan duo Elvis Cheboi and Nicholas Kosimbei for the victory with a 59.6 closing lap.
Cheptegei was clearly proud of his achievement. “I’m so very happy and elated. My family in Uganda is very happy.”
He added that the early breakaway by Nakatani and Hattori didn’t worry him. “Starting slow and finishing fast is how I usually run. I didn’t give up. I knew things would change during the race.
Kosimbei, speaking for the Kenyans, was less satisfied with the outcome. “It was a hard race, especially the last two laps. We were planning to run together with Elvis, and we were sticking to our plan.”
Dennis Masai was the last Kenyan to win gold at the 2010 edition in Moncton, Canada, as the country finished top of the medals standings.
-Sourced from material by the IAAF