TAMPERE, Finland- The third day of the Tampere 2018 IAAF World Under 20 (WU20) Championships was mired in controversy for Team Kenya following the bungling of the men 3000m steeplechase selection that only saw one athlete take to the field for Thursday’s preliminaries.
Efforts by SportPesa News to contact Athletics Kenya (AK) and Team Kenya coaches in Finland to shed light on the embarrassing incident that threatens to end the country’s dominance in the water and barriers race have thus hit a brick wall.
Nairobi 2017 IAAF World Under 17 champion, Leonard Kipkemoi Bett sailed through to Sunday’s final when he ran 8:39.30 to finish behind Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale, the bronze winner from the Bydgoszcz 2016 World U20 who took the second heat in 8:39.15 on Thursday.
While Kipkemoi possesses the pedigree and talent to win Kenya a 16th 3000m men steeplechase crown in 17 editions of the event in what has been a staggering display of excellence at the global track and field showpiece, there is no telling what effect the absence of a teammate in the medal race might have on the U17 champion.
Bett has moved up to the longer distance admirably, clocking 8:21.40 to win the Kenyan trials last month, the second fastest U20 performance in the world this year.
Given Nairobi’s elevation of 1795m above sea level, it’s an impressive performance, setting him up as a man to beat in Tampere.
Philemon Kiplagat Ruto, the other athlete selected in the men 3000m for Team Kenya failed to start with his name missing from the entries for the two heats in circumstances that have left the young runner baffled.
“I have asked the head coach why I was not on the start list and I have no answer yet. I don’t know what is happening. When we arrived in Finland, I found out that I had been replaced by another athlete who for some reason did not make the flight,” the gutted Kiplagat told SportPesa News via WhatsApp from Finland.
Strangely, the runner is accessing the Athletes’ Village, Tampere Stadium and other facilities at the biannual track and field junior event using the accreditation badge of the his erstwhile replacement, a blatant breach of the IAAF rules.
Should event officials discover the anomaly, Kiplagat would be swiftly ejected from the competition in disgrace, with his woes compounded by the fact he travelled from his base in Japan to honour the Kenyan Trials for Tampere.
“I was so motivated to run for Kenya but I’ve been left shattered since I have no idea what is going on. My hopes have been deflated,” Kiplagat mourned.
SportPesa News further established Kiplagat was informed by a local coach he declined to name that his fate might have been sealed following an MRI scan to his knee after a slight injury during Team Kenya’s camp for Tampere.
“He stated I should perhaps have not accepted to be taken for the scan in the first place,” the aggrieved athlete charged.
With officials mum over the brewing saga, Sunday might be the second occasion that Kenya misses out on the 3000m men steeplechase title in the history of the event in what would leave selectors and AK officials with a case to answer.
Trung Cuong Nguyen (8:51.17) from Vietnam who posted a national U20 record, Denis Cherotich of Uganda (8:51.56) and Belgium’s Tim Van De Velde (8:52.78) clinched the other automatic qualifying slots from Heat 2 by finishing in positions three to five in that order.
In the opening race of the men steeplechase, Albert Chemutai of Uganda took the honours in 8:49.47 ahead of Takele Nigate (8:51.17), Mohamed Er Rachdi (8:58.95) from Ethiopia and Morocco.