NAIROBI, July 19 – Willy Tarbei and Kipyegon Bett fulfilled their favorite roles in the boys’ 800m final for the Kenyan 1-2 as the country bagged her third gold of the 2015 IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Joyline Cherotich won bronze in the girls’ 1500m to leave Kenya second to United Stated with three gold, three silver and three bronze medals on the penultimate day of competition Saturday.
In the boys’ 200m, Aaron Kimutai Tum fell at the semi-final in a seventh finish in 21.95 in the first heat that was won by Japanese Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (20.62) to end the run of Kenya’s last sprinter in the competition.
There was however, not trouble when Tarbei and Bett stepped to the track for the two-lap final and wasted no time in getting way ahead of their nearest rivals.
They came to Cali on the back of huge personal best at last month’s Kenyan Trials in Nairobi where they returned 1:44.51 (Bett) and 1:44.55 (Tarbei) and they did not disappoint as the raced to gold and silver to maintain their nation’s rhythm in 800m they have dominated for 10 years.
It was the front-running Tarbei, who was rewarded for his proactive approach to the race, taking the honours in 1:45.58, 0.28 clear of his teammate as Kenya grabbed this title for the fifth time in the past six editions.
Brazilian Luis Fernando Pires beat Ethiopian Omer Amano to the bronze after clocking his personal best of 1:48.61.
After just 0.04 separated Tarbei and Bett at the Kenyan Youth Championships last month, many expected the battle between the two prodigious talents to be a close run thing and so it proved.
Predictably they rushed to the front with Tarbei passing 200m in 24.80 shadowed by Bett with South Africa’s Theuns Ehlers desperately trying to hang on to their coat tails.
At the bell, it was Tarbei in 52.17 from Bett with Ethiopia’s Omer Amano now the man holding third place as Ehlers was relegated to fourth.
The gap between the Kenyans and the rest of the world widened down the back stretch as the race was very obviously – if that wasn’t already apparent – going to lead to a Kenyan 1-2.
Tarbei held a two-metre lead coming into the home straight and Bett moved wide to launch his attack.
The long-time leader always remained at least half a stride clear down the home stretch to hold off his teammate’s late charge to snatch the gold in the second fastest ever winning time in the history of the event at the IAAF World Youth Championships.
The pair had already begun their celebrations when Pires, who had paced his race impressively, grabbed bronze.
With a last-gasp, eyeballs-out, surge down the home straight, Ethiopia’s Bedatu Hirpa powered past Bahrain’s Dalila Abdulkadir Gosa to win gold as Cherotich claimed bronze in her personal best of 4:18.61.
The second Kenyan, Janeth Chepngetich crossed the line at a disappointing fifth after returning 4:19.43.
On what was a warm night in the Pascual Guerrero Stadium, the pace was hot from the gun, with Cherotich quickly getting to the front and taking the field through 400m in 62.92.
At that point, Chepng’etich ran alongside her teammate, with the Kenyan duo looking to control the race and regain the title for their country after winning on four consecutive occasions between 2005 and 2011.
The pace slowed considerably on the second lap (70.18), and Chepngetich soon moved to take her turn at the front.
However, she was quickly overtaken by Gosa, who briefly appeared to have made a winning move for home on the final lap.
Hirpa, though, had other ideas, and the Ethiopian 16-year-old clung to Gosa’s shoulder as they rounded the final turn, before gradually edging her way into the lead halfway down the home straight.
In the end, she simply had too much for the valiant Gosa in the final dash to the line and Hirpa came home in 4:12.92 to retain the title for Ethiopia, with Tigist Gashaw having won in Donetsk, Ukraine in 2013.
Although she was comprehensively outrun over the final 200 metres, Cherotich hung on for the bronze was still pleased with her run.
“I am very comfortable with my bronze medal,” she said, “but next time I want to win gold.”
Kenya will be looking to wrap up the ninth outing on a high by winning gold in the boys’ 2000m steeple chase and 3000m when curtains in the five day championships come down on Sunday.
African champion Vincent Kipyegon is tipped to grab the 2000m water and barriers race title which was won by Ethiopia in the last edition in Donetsk.
He will be joined in the fray by Geoffrey Riotich while in 3000m Richard Yator Kimunyan will be out to reclaim the title from Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha.