Kenya ready for U20 title defense: standard sport

Vincent Keter celebrates after winning the men’s 1,500m final in the U20 World Championship testing at Kasarani Stadium yesterday. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenya has won at least five overall titles at the World Under-20 Athletics Championships since its inception in 1986.

The nation is second in the medal standings with 186 medals behind the United States’ 247. Unfortunately, it only has two title defenses against Wilfred Kirochi (1500m) in the 1986 and 1988 editions as well as Mercy Cherono over 3000m in the 2008 and 2010 editions.

This despite winning overall titles in the 1986 competition in Athens, 2006 in Beijing, 2008 in Bydgoszcz, 2010 in Moncton and 2018 in Tampere, Finland.

Yesterday, Athletics Kenya nominated a team of 46 members, 24 men and 22 women, for the World Under-20 competition which will take place at Kasarani Stadium from August 17-22.

It was quite evident that huge dreams, redemptions and upheavals marked the three days of gripping action.

The battle lines were drawn mainly in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m women as well as the 1500m, 3000m steeplechase and 5000m men.

Newcomer Teresia Muthoni and Zenah Chemutai, fourth in the 2019 African U20 Championships in Côte d’Ivoire, qualified over 3000m. Chemutai will also compete in the 5000m.

These two stars were just plain classy as they dodged the opposition in their respective races.

2014 Commonwealth Games 5000m champion Mercy Cherono is the only Kenyan to have won the U20 3000m world title twice.

But the battle to match the performance of Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Chepngetich in the 1,500m would loom at the World Under-20 event.

Faith Chemutai and Purity Chepkirui will fly the Kenyan flag in what now remains to be seen if they can match Chepng’etich’s performance.

Vincent Keter, sixth at the National Olympic Trials, showed no respect for his peers as he easily won the 1500m. And he could be there to strangle opposition to the global centerpiece. He will team up with Emmanuel Kemama.

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