NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 7 – Since the beginning of the IAAF World Under-18 Championships in 2009, Kenya has only managed to win three medals in sprint races and none in the field events.
Julius Kirwa (2005, Marrakech) and Alphas Kishoyian (2011, Lille) came closest with 400m silver medals while Alex Sampao won bronze in 2013 in Donetsk, Ukraine.
But as the country, famed for producing the best middle and long distance athletes prepares to host the final showpiece in the Under-18 age cadre, athletes and coaches have vowed to wipe off that grim piece of history and ensure that on home soil, Kenya wins its first ever sprint gold.
“We are in a new era. This is a youth event and new talent is being discovered here. People have been saying that Kenya cannot produce medals in sprints. That is just but a saying. This time round we are going to win medals, and that is an assurance I am giving as a captain. What we have done so far is going to give us good results,” Team Captain David Saruni, himself a 400m hurdler told Capital Sport.
The team has been putting up their final paces at the Nyayo National Stadium, before shifting to residential training at the athletes’ village at Kenyatta University on Sunday.
Saruni, a Form Four student at Mogonga High School in Kisii, who is among the athletes touted by sprints coaches Rose Tata Muya and Andrew Maritim as some of the stars to watch, believes they will deliver the medals and adds the home advantage will play a key role.
“We have trained well with some of the best coaches in the country and at the moment it is now upon us to deliver. Running infront of the fans at home will be a big thing and that will add us confidence. We promise to bring medals home,” the articulate speaking Saruni noted.
-Tata Muya expertise-
Tata Muya, who still holds the national 400m Hurdles record from 1983, is encouraged with the shape of the hurdlers whom she has been personally handling and is confident that Kenya will scoop medals.
“I look at these athletes and I am quite optimistic we will get something. They have the technique, they have the drive and come next week, we will be counting the medals. These are future world beaters and I think if we got enough support, Kenya would be producing great sprinters in future,” Muya noted.
Kenya will have a record number of 20 sprinters at Kasarani and coach Maritim believes from them, several medals will crop up.
“In the seniors, we have seen Kenya do well with the 400m hurdles. It is true we have not previously done well in short races but this time, things will be different. As coaches we have worked hard in training.”
“We have worked so much on reaction and technique because those are the minor details that are key in winning sprints. They have improved because most of these athletes came here raw. We should expect good things from Kasarani,” the tactician explained.
Mary Moraa will be doubling up in the 200m and 400m and she has promised to deliver, declaring her interest is in a medal in both events.
“We will be at home and the confidence we have is great. Everyone is working hard in training to make sure we are in shape,” the beastly athlete on the track, but soft spoken and shy on the sides declared.
Kenya will also be represented in the 100m hurdles with James Mucheru and Peter Wambua handed the responsibility of leading Kenya to a record medal.
National Schools champion Wambua, a Form Three student at Kwanthanze High School in Machakos, has a realistic target of reaching the final, though he expects stiff competition from South Africa and Jamaicans.
“People say Kenyans cannot do well in sprints but we want to show them that we are equally good. My main aim is to get to the final. From there, it is anybody’s game. I am confident and I am ambitious,” the 17-year old with a personal best of 14.7 said.
-Field athletes ambitious-
Kenya will also field a record number of 23 athletes in the field events and just like their sprint team-mates, they are more than determined to win medals in areas that Kenyans have not been popular with.
Class Eight pupil Ita Nao who holds the javelin National Schools title with a throw of 64m is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Julius Yego who became the first ever Kenyan to win a world title in the field events.
The resident of Naroosura Location, Narok South District who only knew how to throw a javelin due to his Maasai culture, targets an ambitious throw of 70m at Kasarani and he has been mainly working on his technique.
“It is possible and I am very confident that I can win. Everyone is talking of a gold medal in training I will also be going for one. I know there are very good throwers from other countries, but I believe in myself,” Nao said.
High jumper Evans Kipchirchir also bears the same sentiments that Kenya can surprise the world.
“We are at home and we have that confidence. It will not be easy, but what we can promise Kenyans is that we will be going for medals. We only ask them to come out and give us support on the field and we will not disappoint,” Kipchirchir asserted.
Kenya World U18 team:
Field events: Shot put- Peninah Akoth, Sharon Mukite, Triple jump-Janeth Chemutai, Mary Wangeci, Javelin-Cynthia Chebet, Dorothy Chepngetich, Long jump-Gloria Mulei, Janeth Chemutai, High Jump-Faith Kipsang, Discus –Vivian Jeptoo, Harriet Chiluyi
Sprints: 100m hurdles-Nusra Rukia, Philian Kerubo, 100m-Beatrice Anyango, Hyvin Chepkoech, 200m- Mary Moraa, Beatrice Anyango, 400m-Mary Moraa, Sharon Jebet, 400m hurdles-Irene Akinyi, Leah Jeruto.
Field Events: Discus-Joseph Nyaga, Nicholas Kiprotich, Shot put-Joseph Nyakundi, Reynold Kipkorir, Triple jump-Musyoka Mwema, Vincent Kilel, Javelin-Ita Nao, Nicholas Kiprotich, Long Jump-Vincent Kilel, High jump-Micah Kipkirui, Evans Kipchirchir.
Sprints: 100m-Elijah Matayo, Kelvin Nyagodo, 110m hurdles-Peter Wambua, James Mucheru, 400m hurdles-Moitalel Mboke, David Saruni, 200m-Philemon Konari, Elijah Matayo, 400m- Kelvin Sawe, David Sanayek.