Moment of glory awaits Kenya’s Japheth Kibiwott and Joshua Kiprono when they do battle in boys’ 800m final on Saturday at the World Under-18 Championships in Athletics.
But the battle will narrow down to the regional rivalry between the host and the Ethiopian athletes as clearly manifested in the semi-finals where they shared the spoils.
Ethiopia’s Tolesa Bodena, who is the fastest in the pool, relegated Kibiwott, the Form Four student at St Patricks School, Iten, to second place in the semi-finals.
Bodena, the fastest Under-18 boy in the world this year in 1min, 47.20secs, won the semi-final in 1:49.37 with Kibiwott returning 1:50.03. Kiprono was lucky to have qualified after he finished fourth in his semi-final that went to Ethiopian Melese Nberet in 1:51.50.
The Kenyans will now have to put to plan well if they are to outwit their rivals from Ethiopia to ensure that Kenya signs off in style, this being the last world youth competition.
Kenya is yet to lose the two-lap crown since Leonard Kosencha’s victory at the 2011 Championships in Lille, France. Kosencha’s win opened the way for Alfred Kipketer’s victory in 2013 Donetsk, Ukraine and Willy Tarbei at 2015 Cali, Colombia.
“We need to plan well and divide our energies well over the distance,” Kibiwott. “We will have to polish up our finishing kick if we are to hold off the Ethiopians.”
Kiprono, who a career best of 1:47.81, said he is confident that they will extend Kenya’s unbeaten streak. “The first round and the semis were a good learning experience. I now know how to spread my strength over the distance,” said Kiprono, a Form Three student at Baringo High School.
Moitalel Mpoke is Kenya’s sole representative in boys’ 400m hurdles final due Saturday after his compatriot and team captain David Saruni was disqualified in the semis. Mpoke finished second in a personal best of 52.40 in his semi-final.
Nusra Rukia takes to the blocks in girls’ 100m hurdles’s first round while Evans Kipchirchir will field in boys’ high jump final. Caren Chebet will be flying the country’s flag high in girls’ javelin qualification.