Team Kenya’s technical bench has taken responsibility for Kenya’s tactical errors that saw its athletes settle for bronze medals in girls 1,500m and boys 800m finals respectively at the World Under-18 Championships on Saturday.
Head coach Kariuki Gikonyo said they took a gamble of having the athletes take control the pace at high speed in both races so as to have a chance of winning after the semi-finals proved slow.
Besides denying Kenya victory in girls 1,500m for the third consecutive time, Ethiopia snatched away the boys’ 800m titles, sweeping to
1-2 victories in both races.
Edina Jebitok, who took off with 600m to go ran out of gas at the home straight as Ethiopians Lemlem Hailu and Sindu Girma overtook her to win gold and silver in 4:20.80 and 4:22.14 respectively. Jebitok settled for bronze in 4:23.16.
Jebitok’s compatriot Rachel Nzangi came in fourth in 4:24.70.
Kenya’s Japheth Kibiwott and Joshua Kiprono led through 200m, 400m and 600m in 25.53, 51.53 and 1:17.91 before Ethiopians Melese Nberet and Tolesa Bodena caught up with them with 50m to go.
Nberet snatched gold on the line in 1:47.12, beating Bodena to silver in 1:47.16 as Kibiwott settled for bronze in 1:47.82. Kiprono came in fifth in 1:50.31.
“We thought that our athletes could play into the hands of their rivals with slow pace and finishing in a crowd,” said Gikonyo. “For instance, we had the athletes going through 400m in 55 seconds in 800m.”
Gikonyo said a slow pace could have been anybody’s game hence opted to do their pace. “It was an agreement with all the coaches but in the end the gamble didn’t pay as the Ethiopians got the better of us,” said Gikonyo.
Gikonyo paid tribute to his athletes for a brave show saying it’s unfortunate that then tactics didn’t work. “Let them leave the event with their heads held high since the future looks bright for them.”
Perhaps poor tactics were Kenyan athletes’ main undoing.