IN TAMPERE, FINLAND
Kenyan athletes launch their campaign at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships here with the men's 10,000 metres and women's 5,000 metres medals up for grabs on Tuesday’s opening day.
In the 2016 edition in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Kenya came in second overall behind the United States of America with a total of nine medals (five gold, two silver and two bronze medals).
So far, Kenya is the most successful nation overall at these championships after bagging a total of 175 medals since the inception of this age-group competition in 1986.
More than 1,400 athletes from 158 nations have landed in this Finish city with usual suspects Kenya, USA, Jamaica, South Africa, Ethiopia and Cuban expected to dominate the medals table.
The first final of the afternoon will be in the women's 5,000m where Japan-based Hellen Ekalale and Beatrice Chebet will wear the Kenyan colours.
They will pave way for Rhonex Kipruto and Solomon Boit to battle in the men’s 10,000m final later in the evening programme.
Keringet (Nakuru County) based Chebet is out on mission to make amends after missing out on a medal at last year's IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi where she was fourth in the 3,000m race.
“We have trained really well and what is remaining is to deliver and we have to bring good results by winning medals. On my part, I really want to win a medal for my country this time round after missing out in last year’s championships,” said the soft-spoken Chebet.
She says training with her seniors Sandrafelis Chebet and Emily Chebet gave her enough endurance in the long distance race.
“We shall be reading the pattern the Ethiopians will be using because we want to bag a gold medal which they won at the 2016 championships,” said Chebet who was ninth at the Africa Cross Country Championships in Algeria in March.
Ekalale expects a strong field. “This is a championship race and anything is possible. We have done our training well and will be looking forward to a good run and if all goes well, we will bring home medals,” said the Japan-based athlete.
In the men's 10,000m race, Kipruto, fresh from winning New York Healthy Kidney 10km race in USA, is optimistic that he will do well together with his compatriot and bring the medals home.
“We want to bring the medals home. The training that we did will help us execute the plan. We are going to retain the title Kenya won in 2016,” said a confident Kipruto.
He expects stiff competition from the Ethiopians.
“Many athletes we know are coming to these championships with a view of beating Kenyans but we are very ready for them,” assured Kipruto who trains under Bro Colm O’ Connell in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Boit, who is a form three student at Chewoiyet High School in West Pokot County, said having trainined with Kipruto in Iten under Bro Colm for some time, they will use tactics mastered to make sure they take the first two positions in the race.
“I know it will be a tough race but we will be looking forward to a good race where we want to take the first two positions despite the stiff competition,” he said.