Nairobi – Seldom does a country enter any championships without the hope of winning it.
But despite Kenya’s second place in the medals table at the World Youth Championships in Donestsk, Ukraine, there is still a feeling of success among the fans.
The performance confirmed the long held belief that Kenya’s production lines continue to churn out exemplary talents to take their rightful place in the roll of honor at major championships.
Japheth Kemei, the Athletics Kenya youth coach, said the show in Ukraine, where the country’s youngest track and field talents wind up second with 11 medals – four gold, three silver and four bronze – behind Jamaica with eight medals – six gold and two bronze, confirmed Kenya as a powerhouse in the disciplines.
Ethiopia was in the third place with eight medals (3-2-3) as Australia trailed in the fourth place with four medals (3-0-1).
“We had some of the youngest athletes in Ukraine. Our production line, our systems are working and we will continue to see such exemplary talents on parade in future competitions,” said Kemei, in Nairobi on Monday.
“To be the second best country in the world is a dream for many federations, yet we have done it on more than five occasions since the event was started in 1999.”
With 11 medals, Kenya together with China, were the only two countries to boost such a huge collection in the five-day championships.
Whereas Kenya was second, China had to be content with the sixth place with just two gold, six silver and three bronze.
“Don’t write off such countries like China and Russia. Look at the level of investment they have put in this youth team and you realize their focus is in future competition,” Kemei said.
“These are the champions of tomorrow and we’d better look at them as serious contenders. China will be hosting the 2015 World Championships and you bet these young athletes will be out to curve a niche at home. Same to Kenya and Jamaicans,” said Kemei.
The Kenyan team is due back in the country on Wednesday, where a heroic welcome awaits them.
While Kenya failed in its bid to claim the overall title for the fourth time out of the eight editions they have competed in the event, the second place on the medal table was ideal.
For so long, Kenya has exchanged the overall title with USA and for Jamaica to steal the thunder from the two giants is a strong statement of intend in future World Championships.
Therefore the young boys and girls will be back home with their heads held high after unveiling great talent for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
Kenya’s achievement still stands out of the 165 countries and regions that took part given that they could marshal the fight against world’s biggest economies – USA, China and Russia – who entered a higher number of athletes.
One man stood out from the pack among the Kenya medalists. Robert Kiptoo Biwott, the new World Youth champion in 1,500m in a new championships record of 3:36.77, improved the previous event record by one hundredth of a second.
Seemingly inspired by the front-running victory of countryman Alfred Kipketer in the 800m final, Biwott adopted similar tactics, albeit at a more manageable pace.
He led through the first two laps, reached in 1:56.95, and continued running away from the field.
By the time he reached the bell, his lead was close to 60 meters. The chasing pack only gained slightly in the closing stages, but Biwott was well clear, crossing the line in 3:36.77. Eritrea’s Tesfu Tewelde won the race of the chasers, setting a PB of 3:42.14 to take silver from Kenya’s Titus Kibiego (3:42.97).
AK vice President David Okeyo congratulated the team. He said their performance was a clear inspiration to the senior team, who are preparing to take part in the World Championships in Moscow, Russia in August.
“This is an indication that we can do better at the World Championships. The youth have set the pace. We have to show the world that despite several omissions in our line-up, we still have a strong team,” said Okeyo.
“The youth team is a good squad with potential athletes to do duty for the country in 2015 World Championships in China and the Rio Olympics in 2016,” said Okeyo.
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