Kenyans launch title bid in Lille

Tuesday July 5 2011

By JONATHAN KOMEN in Lille, France

Kenyan charges begin their campaign to defend the individual and team titles on Wednesday night.

Africa cross country junior champion Caroline Chepkoech and bronze medallist Ziporrah Wanjiru take to the track in the 3,000 metres final on the opening day of the IAAF World Youth Championships at Lille Metropole Stadium here in Lille, France.

The two starlets, who blazed the trail in South Africa last March, now hold the dream to have the national anthem played on the first day after the 3,000m final here at the at the 20,000 capacity stadium on Wednesday night (8:55pm Kenyan time). 

Chepkoech,  a Class Eight Pupil at Kibori Primary School in Sotik, is upbeat that Kenya can retain the overall title as well as hold a firm grip on the 3,000m race.

Source of inspiration

The runner draws inspiration from the word ‘Lille’ that means to “light up” or “shine” in the Kalenjin language and she is optimistic Kenyan runners will shine on Wednesday.

Ironically, Lille is the hosting city and the youngsters look ready to set fire on the blue tartan track here.

Chepkoech, a younger sister to two-time world junior 3,000m champion Mercy Cherono, said:

“We need to set the pace with Wanjiru. I will be struggling to break Cherono’s world youth championships record. And tomorrow (Wednesday) is the day,” said Chepkoech, also the Africa Youth 3,000m bronze medallist. 

Teamwork vital for victory 

The newly-crowned Africa 3,000m title holder said team work was paramount in their quest for glory.

“We both have international experience and must plan well and pray to God for guidance,” said Chepkoech. 

Wanjiru, a high school student, said: “I just want to improve my performances in the track. I have realised there is some light at the end of the tunnel since I simply took up athletics on my own.

“There was no role model to guide me,” Wanjiru, the second-born in a family of seven, said. “I have recovered from the long journey.”

Amsterdam marathon champion Alice Timbilil and World 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot set the trend for Kenyans to rule the race when she romped to victory in Bydgoszcz, Poland, in 1999.

But Ethiopia and Morocco also rose to share the spoils in the 3,000m. 

Sally Kiptich Chepyegon and Fridah Chepkemoi Domogole bagged gold and silver medals respectively in Debreen, Hungary, in 2001 with Ethiopia’s Mestawet running away with silver.

Moroccan Siham Hilali ran a brilliant 9:12.70 to elbow Kenya’s Pasalia Chepkorir Kipkoech and Yuko Nohara of Japan in Sherbrooke, Canada, in 2003 before Veronica Nyaruai and former world cross-country star Pauline Korikwang stamped a 1-2 sweep for Kenya in Marrakech, Morocco two years later.