Efforts by Kenyan athletes to secure victory on penultimate day of World Under-18 Championships fell short at Kasarani on Saturday as the home team claimed one silver medal and three bronze to drop down the medal standings.
Dominic Samson started the day by winning a historic bronze medal in boys’ 10,000m race walk in the morning, and Moitalel Mpoke snatched a precious silver medal in boys’ 400m hurdles.
However, Kenya’s hopes of victory in girls’ 1,500m and boys’ 800m races went up in smoke before home crowd when Edina Jebitok and Japheth Kibiwott settled for bronze respectively, losing to their Ethiopian rivals who took the first two slots in both races.
The performance brought Kenya’s medals tally to nine – two gold, four silver and a bronze – as the country dropped five places down to sixth, with South Africa, Cuba and China ahead with four gold medals each, followed by Ethiopia with three gold.
Germany, who also have two gold and four silver medals, have superior bronze tally of four over Kenya.
However, Kenya is expected to haul at least four gold medals Sunday in girls’ 800m final, boys’ 3,000m final, boys’ 2000m steeplechase final and 4x400m mixed relays race after posting the fastest times in the semi-finals.
Perhaps poor tactics were Kenya’s main undoing Saturday as Kibiwott and Noah Kiprono took off at super speed, crossing the 400m mark at 51.53 seconds.
They then faded as Melese Nberet and Tolesa Bodena caught up with them at the last bend to glide to victory in 1:47.12 and 1:47.16 respectively.
It was a heartbreak for the more than 50,000 fans who turned up at the 60,000-seater stadium as Kibiwott took bronze in personal best 1min,47.82sec, with Kiprono fifth in 1:50.31.
“We had planned to stay ahead of the pack but it seems the Ethiopians were stronger than us,” said Kibiwott.
The going also got tough for Jebitok and Rachel Nzangi as they failed to halt Ethiopia’s dominance in girls’ 1,500m final as Jebitok, who broke away with 600m to go, settled for bronze in 4:23.16. Ethiopians Lemlem Hailu and Sindu Girma caught up with Jebitok at the last bend for a 1-2 finish, timing 4:20.80 and 4:22.14 respectively. Nzangi came in fourth in 4:24.70.
Samson might have failed in his attempt for a top podium place but the athlete from Nyamira County wrote his name in history books as the first Kenyan to win a race walk medal at a world athletics championships in a personal best of 41:25.78 seconds, losing the battle to Yao Zhang from China, who claimed gold in 41:12.01 and Salavat Ilkaev from Russia 41:24.17.
However, Samson’s compatriot, Lenah Nanjala, failed in her bid to win girls’ 5,000m race walk after she was penalised to finish 14th in 25:23.97 seconds.
World Under-18 400m silver medallist Mary Moraa anchored Kenya to the 4x400m mixed relays final with victory.
Kenya has won 6 of 9 titles in event.