NAIROBI, June 23 – The victorious World Youth trio of Willy Tarbei, Kipyegon Bett and Kumari Taki have set their sights on challenging their seniors for Beijing World Championships selection at the July 31 and August 1 National Trials in Nairobi.
Their Beijing dreams however, hinge on invitation to the Trials by Athletics Kenya (AK).
They underlined their intentions on Thursday when the victorious Kenyan team of 26 returned from Cali, Colombia where they bagged 13 medals (5 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze) to a heroic welcome where family and friends burst into merry song and dance.
As is tradition, all gold medallists were adorned with fresh wreaths from the Sinendet tree reserved for conquerors and a swig of the fermented Mursik milk from a gourd to kick-start the ceremony that ended in a sumptuous luncheon at a Nairobi Hotel.
However, it was Nairobi’s Riruta Satellite Secondary School students who stole the show after hoisting fellow student and the only female gold medallist, Celliphine Chepteek.
“Everywhere we go, people should know, we who we are! We were born the champions,” over 50 students from the institution chanted in recognition of yet another young global champion from its ranks.
Promising Tarbei took the boys’ 800m World Youth honours on his international debut after coming from seemingly nowhere to stun favourite and African champion, Kipyegon Bett after returning 1:45.58, 0.28 clear of his compatriot’s 1:45.86.
The pair who came to Cali on the back of huge personal best at last month’s Kenyan Trials in Nairobi where they clocked1:44.51 and 1:44.55 in that order, are also preparing for the September, Commonwealth Youth Games set for Samoa.
Tarbei (17), a front runner just like 800m Olympic and World record holder, David Rudisha, is however, dreaming to smash his mentor’s record of 1:40.91 in future.
“I was not expecting to see many people welcoming (us) back because this was my first international assignment; even it was my first time to board an aeroplane,” the lanky youngster said while smiling.
“There was stiff competition since there were Ethiopians and Bett who is very strong but I’m happy I achieved my target I promised Kenyans when we left for Cali. The climate was too hot but it was favourable, I think I could have bettered my personal best.
“But we will see how it will go in Trials if I and my friend Bett are given chance since we have the qualification standards,” Tarbei, a Form 4 (final year) student at St. Jude Kokwet Secondary School in Kericho County, stated.
For Bett, he will be going back to training to rectify his weakness as he targets to lower his personal best to 1:43.
“It was not easy in Cali because climate didn’t favour me but I’m satisfied with the silver. Tarbei’s tactics were fantastic and he had more energy than me but I will train hard to prepare for Beijing Trials,” declared Bett.
The two will face Rudisha, World Junior champion, Alfred Kipketer, Ferguson Rotich, Jackson Kivuva and London Olympic bronze medallist, Timothy Kitum among others in the eagerly anticipated Trials.
After smashing the boys’ 1500m championship record, Taki (16) is now aiming at attacking Commonwealth silver medallist, Ronald Kwemoi’s World Junior record of 3:28.81when the event will be held in Kazan, Russia, next year.
With 2008 Beijing Olympic and two-time World title holder, Asbel Kiprop, Club Games champion, James Magut and Kwemoi likely set to light up the Trials, Taki is geared up for the challenge after setting a new World Youth lead of 3:36.38.
“I’m so happy to break the record although it was very tough. It came as a surprise but I was sure of winning gold since I had done enough practice.
“There was so much wind which made it difficult for me and I hope it will not be the same in Samoa since I’m aiming to win gold before going for the junior title,” Taki underscored.
“If I continue training hard, I will be better like Kiprop in years to come. I will go and try the Trials which I know it will not be easy,” he added.
Chepteek was not only proud by her outstanding performance of a 6:17.15 lifetime best but was grateful to stun African Champion, Sandrafelis Chebet who was tipped to win the girls 2000m steeplechase before being forced to settle for silver in 6:19.61.
“I had done a lot of practice in clearing the barriers and it really helped me beat Sandrafelis who was a major threat. I didn’t believe I could beat her because she was too good for me during the Trials.
“I will go and train more and if I make the team to Commonwealth, I will do my best to better my time,” she asserted.
Vincent Kipyegon did not disappoint after reclaiming the boys’ 2000m steeplechase crown from rivals Ethiopia with a 5:27.58 victory to give his nation her final victory in Cali.
“I’m very happy to fulfil my dream although I was under pressure because my race was on the last day. Having watched my colleagues win, I couldn’t afford to let them down. I’m preparing to be the World Junior champion next year and World Youth Olympics.
“I will be competing in 1500m and 2000m steeplechase in Commonwealth and as long as I maintain my shape I’m certain I will win gold in both events,” the 17-year old, from Sotit Secondary School underlined.
Richard Yator, the boys’ 3000m champion (7:54.45) is hoping to shape his career in cross country and 5000m on track when he graduates to juniors next year.
Kenya will host the next edition in 2017 where another group of talented prospects will hope to match or better the class of Cali that finished second overall in the medal charts behind the might of the United States.