NAIROBI�Kenya today emerged fourth in the just ended World U-18 championships in Nairobi but boasted of preparing a very successful global event.
Kenya was beaten in the medal ranking by South Africa, China and Cuba. Its long-time rival in long distance races, Ethiopia, emerged in position five.
Despite putting a spirited competition in all the 17 events on offer, Kenya managed 4 gold medals, 7 silver, and 4 bronze compared to the overall winner South Africa’s 5 gold, 3 silver, and three bronze.
Chinese athletes took home 5 gold medals, 2 silver, and 4 bronze while Cubans went away with 5 gold, 2 silver and 1 (one) bronze.
Ethiopians who posed the greatest challenge to Kenyans in 3,000 metres and steeple chase for men managed 4 gold medals, 3 silver and five bronze.
First Lady Maragaret Kenyatta sat in the Moi International Sports Centre, (MISC) , Kasarani’s main competition arena for over 2 hours enjoying the final competitions that included the 3000 metres race for boys, 800 metres for girls and the 2000 metres steeple chase for boys.
She also watched the special 4X400 mixed race where boys and girls exchanged batons. This was one of the most interesting races in which Brazilians ran away with a gold medal.
The Nairobi 2017 championships marked the 10th edition but the last WU-18 event. It was held under the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).
The First Lady is the current patron of the Biennial International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) W-U18 championships, Kenya Chapter.
Over 2,000 athletes and their officials from 131 nations participated in the Nairobi 2017 competitions where Kenya was billed to emerge top of the medal ranking considering its athletes were competing on home-ground and enjoying a huge support from its local fans and sporting enthusiasts.
Kenya’s hopes to top the medal list had been heightened during the 800 metres for girls when Jackline Wambui and Lydia Jeruto Lagat out-pased their Ethiopian rivals to ran home with both Gold and Silver medals.
The Kenyan girls received a standing ovation from thousands of Kenyans who jam-packed the stadium including the First Lady, and Cabinet Secretaries Joseph Mucheru (ICT), Hassan Wario (Sports Culture and Arts), Amina Mohammed (Foreign Affairs) and Phylis Kandie (East African Community and Labour).
Despite Kenya losing the gold medal to Ethiopians in the 3000 metres race where Stanley Mburu Waithaka and Edward Zakayo managed 2rd and third positions respectively, the hope for Kenyans was rekindled again during the Steeple Chase event where local athletes managed the first two positions.
Leornard Kipkemoi and Cleophas Kandie gave the boys from Addis Ababa a ran for their money when they left them trailing to position three and four with a huge gap between them.
But when it came to the 4X400 mixed race , two boys and two girls from each of the participating countries, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians could not match the speed of the Brazilians.
The championships were closed in style. African Music dancers, colourful fireworks and a match-past by all the participating athletes and Kenya’s champions in Athletics since 1954 when veteran Mayoro Nyandika first reptresented Kenya in an international outing.
Besides presenting the medals to the winners of the 4X400 race, the First Lady personally greeted all the 85 veterans who on Wednesday met with her at the same stadium to share their concerns.
President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the games on Wednesday where he also ordered that the doors to the stadium be opened for free entry by Fans.
Today’s events attracted one of the largest crowds where the 60,000-capacity stadium was bursting on the seams with a sea of humanity who occasionally erupted into the popular Mexican wave of cheering the competitors.
Earlier, organizers of the event and some of the veterans talked highly of the preparations saying Kenya had delivered its promise to host a successful global event.
We have done very well as a country. We have delivered the competitions beyond the expectations of the IAAF, said Local Organizing Committee Chief Executive Officer Mwangi Muthee.
He was optimistic that all Kenyan youths participating in the five-day track and field extravaganza will one day become superstars.
‘These are youngsters competing under intense pressure. I am optimistic all of them will become superstars in their respective fields, said Muthee.
Renown athlete Paul Tergat, veteran of the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races said he was very satisfied with performance by Kenyans. He was also amazed by the enthusiastic crowds that had turned up for the championships.
Tegla Loroupe, another legend in the 3000 metres race and the marathon said the young Kenyan athletes should in future be allowed to attend the competitions with their own coaches and trainers.
We must support and empower our coaches. Our girls should be allowed to attend the competitions with their coaches whom they are familiar with.
Source: The President