NAIROBI, Kenya, July 15 – Solomon Lekuta emulated his namesake and mentor World Record holder David Rudisha after storming to gold in the men’s 800m and send Kenya on top of the world as the IAAF World U20 Championships concluded on Sunday in Tempere, Finland.
Lekuta, the pre-race favourite, clocked 1:46.35, leading compatriot Ngeno Kipngetich to a Kenyan 1-2 finish as the later bagged silver in a Personal Best time of 1:46.45.
There was no place for Ethiopia in the podium finish as Algerian Oussama Cherrad tool bronze in 1:47.10 condemning Adisu Girma to fifth.
Earlier, Kenya lost gold to Ethiopia in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase, a race they have dominated since the inaugural edition in 1986 as Leonard Bett settled for silver in 8:25.39 behind gold medallist Takele Nigate who crossed the line fist in a Season’s Best of 8:25.35.
Another Ethiopian Gatnet Wale grabbed bronze in 8:26.16.
In the women’s 1500m, Kenya’s Miriam Cherop won silver in 4:10.73 after being beaten by Ethiopian Alemaz Samuel to gold in 4:08.67 while Swiss Delia Sclabas took bronze in 4:11.98.
The other Kenyan in the race Edina Jebitok faded to fifth, clocking 4:15.17.
Kenya finished top of the world after hauling a total of 11 medals, 6 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze, to reclaim the top spot from United States who have dominated since 2012 when the championship was hosted in Barcelona.
-King Solomon gold-
With a run that required speed, stamina and a sheer sense of self-belief, Lekuta of Kenya secured his nation their third consecutive gold medal in the men’s 800m at the IAAF World U20 Championships.
“I’m really happy with the gold medal but the competition was really hot because everyone wanted it too,” said Lekuta. “I’ve been training for this championship for a long time and I want to dedicate the gold medal to my parents.”
Taking the lead from the gun, Lekuta blitzed through the opening 200m in 25 seconds and steadied things slightly from there, passing 400m just behind Ethiopia’s Adisu Girma, who passed through in 52.17 with a horde of athletes stalking his footsteps close behind.
Britain’s Markhim Lonsdale came to grief just before the bell, a collision of legs immediately ending his medal hopes as he crashed to the track.
Down the back straight, Girma continued to turn the screw on those behind, with the second Kenyan, Ngeno Kipngetich, appearing best poised to launch a strike for gold along with Algeria’s Oussama Cherrad.
Halfway down the home straight it seemed Kipngetich’s move would be successful, the Kenyan hitting the front and drawing away from Girma, but soon he had unwanted company in the form of Lekuta, back from the dead, who came charging down the outside.
Lekuta had just enough left in his legs to carry himself to the lead as the line approached, and he crossed in 1:46.35. Kipngetich came home just behind in 1:46.45 to seal Kenya’s third successive one-two in the event.
“The last 200 metres were so tough,” said Kipngetich. “I feel proud I could bring the silver medal to my country. Overall, Kenya had a great race – two medals.”
Algeria’s Oussama Cherrad held on for bronze, or so it seemed.
Approaching the finish, Cherrad had moved wide to halt the run of Belgium’s Eliott Crestan, a move which got him disqualified and upgraded Crestan to bronze in 1:47.27.
Ethiopia’s Girma faded close to home and could only finish fourth in 1:47.58.
-Additional report from IAAF-