NAIROBI, Kenya, July 31 – The Eugene World Juniors Kenyan squad did not their target of 10 gold medals to beat rivals USA on the overall title, but for the four top medal winners, the biennial IAAF showpiece marked a new chapter as the aim to reciprocate the performances as senior runners.
The team of 26 returned home to a warm reception at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as family members livened the busy facility with chants before heading to Riadha House where Athletics Kenya hosted them to a sumptuous breakfast.
Fresh from adding the World Juniors title to the Worlds Youth crown in men’s 800m, Alfred Kipketer is keen to follow in the footsteps of record holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha as he targets to compete at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China.
“It’s time to be kind enough and give other upcoming athletes a chance to grow. I’m now heading to the seniors and my first aim is to make it to next year’s World Championships which will be a dream come true,” Kipketer who anchored the 4x800m team to gold at the Bahamas World Relays told Capital Sport.
He explained how the came up with a winning strategy with team mate and silver winner, Joshua Tiampati Masikonde to ensure Kenya reclaims the two-lap title lost to Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the Olympics silver winner.
“Competition was not stiff because we had planed for it, I was confident of making it to the finals having run 1:48 in the Heats. We strategised with Masikonde on how to approach the race since the only threat was from an American.
“We agreed on increasing the pace until 200m to the finish line where I realized my team-mate had slowed so I decided to go for the win in my lifetime best of 1:43.95.”
Margaret Wambui, the winner of the corresponding women’s crown, told of the realisation of a dream on her debut where she completed a stunning 2:00.49 victory.
Despite being eligible to compete as a junior, the little known Wambui from Endarasha in Nyeri County who announced her emphatic entry to the limelight is confident she can mix it with the seniors.
“This is my first time to compete in 800m since I was used to 400m, being my first I’m very happy. I had prepared well for race because I knew competition would be stiff since in a world champion everyone is good.
“I want to be a champion and even break a women’s 800m world record like Rudisha did in the men’s and I believe I can because I have good times,” Wambui stated.
Another promising champion Barnabas Kipyego, who sustained Kenya’s 3000m steeple chase chokehold by claiming gold in 8:25.57, is the latest in a long line of junior champions hoping to dominate the sport like two-time Oympics and three-time Worlds titleholder Ezekiel Kemboi dominate.
Kipyego who retained the title won by Consensus Kipruto in Barcelona two years ago, will debut his senior race at next month’s Stockholm Diamond League.
“The competition went according to our plan and I had to do my best to win the title since this is our event it and also to encourage other athletes to do their best.
“I want to run like Kemboi and hopefully one day I achieve my target of 8:00. I’m looking forward to compete in my first Diamond League which will be a good exposure,” Kipyego announced.
Jonathan Kiplimo also graduated in style by winning men’s 1500m gold in his season’s best of 3:40.02 and for him the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is his dream.
“We gave our best in Oregon and I won gold though I wanted us to finish 1-2 but Abdi Mouhyadin from Djibouti spoiled the party for Hillary Cheruiyot to win bronze.
“If I’m in a good shape I know I can compete well against champions like Asbel Kiprop,” Kiplimo added.
Kenya won 16 medals, four golds, five silver and seven bronze to finish second behind USA, but for head coach Andrew Maritim, it was a good performance displayed by his charges since they improved from Barcelona medal tally by three.
“We prepared well hoping for the best but it was very competitive because there are some events that we were expecting to have gold but we landed on silver and bronze.
“Our aim was to beat USA at the top but his time round it was technical because they were at home and entered a big team of 61 compared to ours 26 with a lot of their medals coming from field events compared to us where we had no athlete.
“I’m optimistic we will beat them one day since we have done it before,” Maritim said.