NAIROBI, Kenya, July 12 – Cheered by home fans, Team Kenya opened her IAAF World U18 Championships medal account with silver thanks to Emmaculate Chepkirui in the Girls 3000m on Day One at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani on Wednesday night.
Running under rainy conditions, the rivalry between Kenya and Ethiopia was witnessed in the last race of the day that saw Abersh Minsewo out kick Chepkirui on the home stretch to take gold in 9:24.62.
Chepkirui, who did all her best to give Kenya a golden start settled for silver in 9:24.69 ahead of another Ethiopian Yitayish Mekonene who grabbed bronze in 9:28.46. The only other Kenyan in the race Beatrice Chebet was fourth in 9:33.26.
“I feel very good for winning this silver medal and I am very happy though I wanted to break Mercy Cherono’s record but wasn’t possible,” Chepkirui, who will now be shifting her attention to World Junior Championships, said.
“The rain did not affect me though the fault start was not good. I ran from behind in the opening three rounds because I wanted to save the finishing kick since I knew Ethiopians are good at that,” the silver medallist at 2016 Bydgoszcz World Junior Championships noted.
The race watched at the VIP dias by President Uhuru Kenyatta, First Lady Margaret and IAAF President Sebastian Coe, had tension even before it started and it was evidently seen by the three fault starts, something that is very rare.
Being the first international event for all the runners, it was a game of sizing each other with Ethiopian Mekonene controlling the slow pace as Chebet, who has a Personal Best of 9:07.0 reading the race from the middle.
The second lap saw Chebet up her game though it seemed early, to run side-by-side alongside Mekonene as Ugandan Sarah Chelangat was third to pile up the pressure while Chepkirui was just behind her.
The race shaped up in the fifth lap though it was still tight with the usual culprits in the leading pack that included two Kenyans, two Ethiopians and one Ugandan.
Ugandan Chelangat could not keep up the pace as she dropped towards the bell to leave the showdown to the perennial rivals Kenya and Ethiopia. It is at this moment that Chepkirui broke up but Abersh could not let her go.
The turning point was at the back straight when both athletes ran neck-to-neck but at the home straight the Ethiopian had the finishing kick to take the race and give her country the first gold medal in the five-day Championships that ends on Sunday.
In the Boys 800m, all the two Kenyans sailed to Thursday’s semi-final.
Noah Kiprono was the first to automatically qualify after finishing third in Heat 2, returning 1:54.10 while Japheth Kibiwott clocked 1:53.91 to win Heat 4 and automatically qualify.
Kiprono, 17-year-old will run in lane 3 in the first semi-final while Kibiwott is placed in lane 5 in the second semi.
In the Girls 100m first round, Kenya’s Beatrice Onyango found the going tough to be eliminated after finishing second last in her Personal Best of 12.50.
In the corresponding men’s race, it was the end of the road for Kenyan Elijah Okwane who bowed out in the semis despite improving his Personal Best to 10.74.
Thursday’s fixture will see Stanley Waithaka and Edward Zakayo carry the Kenya flag in the Boys 3000m heats, Leah Jeruto and Irene Akinyi battle it out in the Girls 400m Hurdles Heats while Lydia Jeruto and Jackline wambui compete in Girls 800m Heats.
Musyoka Mwema will be looking to make history as the first Kenyan in the Championships to ever win a medal outside athletics when he competes in the Boys Long Jump final.