NAIROBI, Kenya- Just when the record crowd needed a huge lift, Kenya could trust the safe Bett- Leonard Bett- to deliver the one gold medal his country could not afford to lose in the boys’ 2000m steeplechase.
To crown it all, Bett led compatriot Cleophas Meyan to the Kenyan 1-2 amid ridiculous noise as the Nairobi 2017 IAAF World Under 18 (WU18) Championships closed at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Sunday.
Bett, 17, who progressed through his heat by winning it in 5:46.22, went a step further and made history as the last ever Kenyan WU18 champion in 5:32.32.
Behind him, Meyan caught the bouquet in a lifetime best of 5:33.07 for silver having followed his compatriot for the last three laps where the Kenyans ran unchallenged until the final water jump when they attempted to make a race of it.
Ethiopian pair, Alemu Kitessa (5:42.10) and Girma Diriba (5:45.77) finished in the bronze position and fourth in that order as the Kenyans hit back only minutes after their compatriot Selemon Barega had broken the hearts of the home crowd by winning the boys’ 3000m.
Bett’s victory carried the added bonus of lifting Kenya ahead of their East African arch rivals in the overall standings, with the home nation climbing to fourth on four gold, seven silver and four bronze against Ethiopia’s four gold, three silver and five bronze.
With a lap, the field was bunched together at the front but 800m, the event known worldwide as Kenya’s race had turned into an internal competition between Bett and Mayan.
The former found the gear to keep his challenger at bay as Kasarani erupted as dusk descended on the venue that can now boast of holding the largest crowd ever for an international junior event across any sport known to man.
In the end Kenya got the last laugh in the battle of the middle distances by winning a race that was first run by Irish horses.
1 Leonard Kipkemoi BETT KEN 5:32.52
2 334 Cleophas Kandie MEYAN KEN 5:33.07 PB
3 234 Alemu KITESSA ETH 5:42.10
4 231 Girma DIRIBA ETH 5:45.77
5 487 Murat YALÇINKAYA TUR 5:49.27 PB
6 253 Saba KHVICHAVA GEO 5:52.64 PB
7 495 Joel KIPLANGAT UGA 5:55.25 PB
8 368 Hamza SEKHMANI MAR 5:56.70
9 104 Hamdani BENAHMED ALG 5:58.11
10 397 Mohammed AL-SULEIMANI OMA 5:59.72
11 430 Robert DE VILLIERS RSA 6:05.23
12 411 Aleksander WIACEK POL 6:06.22
13 482 Anil KALAYCI TUR 6:07.85
14 222 Toni BAÑOS ESP 6:15.32
472 Aziz JDAY TUN DQ