IN TAMPERE, FINLAND
Team Kenya’s hunt for more medals in the World Under-20 Championships continues here on Friday with Cellphine Chespol seeking to defend her 3,000m steeplechase title.
Kenya was second on the medal standings with two gold medals before Thursday evening’s events in Tampere.
Chespol leads compatriot Mercy Chepkurui in the race which kicks off at 8:45pm at Tampere Stadium where they are expected to face stiff competition from Kenyan-born Bahraini Winfred Yavi, Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai and Etalemahu Sintayehu from Ethiopia.
A composed Chespol stormed into Friday's final with an assured performance in semi-finals on Tuesday and believes she will perform well if the weather conditions remain conducive for running.
“I know the competition will be stiff and I expect a fast race but I believe I have trained well. I have been training with senior athletes who have given me support and I will do my best to defend my title,” said Chespol.
The Kenyan is no fluke the hot favourite for the gold in the race. Chespol boasts of the World Under-20 world record of 8:58.78, championships record of 9:25.15 she recorded in Bydgoszcz in 2016 and the World U-20 leading time of 9:01.82 she clocked in the Paris Diamond League earlier this month.
For Chepkurui, teamwork is the only way the Kenyan duo will bring home gold and silver.
“You can see the Japanese are also becoming a threat to us. We are going to team up so that we can tame the other athletes and my goal is to be in the podium,” Chepkurui said.
In the men’s 800m race, Solomon Lekuta and Kipng’etich Ng’eno will begin their campaign in the first round of the races as they hope for a place in Saturday’s semi-finals.
World Under-18 1,500m bronze medalist Edna Jebitok will be seeking for an improved performance in the semi-finals also set for Friday.
Jebitok will lead Miriam Cherop in a bid to reclaim the title that has eluded Kenya since 2013 in Lille, France when Faith Chepng’etich – the Olympic and World 1,500m champion - bagged gold for the country.
“I was beaten narrowly by the Ethiopians last year in Kasarani but I will be looking forward to upgrading my medal this time round,” said Jebitok.
But it won’t be easy for the Kenyans as Ethiopia’s Alemaz Samuel, who has a personal best of 4:01.78, and Dinke Firdisa (4:09.68) who have clocked better times.
Moitalel Mpoke will also be featuring in the 400m hurdles men’s semifinals where he is out to qualify for the finals set for Saturday.
Eyes will also be on sole triple jump participant Philip Musyoka who is representing the country for a second time in a global event after failing to reach finals in the World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi last year.
“My target in the championships is to do well and qualify for the finals where I want to be in the podium,” Musyoka said.