TAMPERE, Finland- After a barnstorming opening to the Tampere 2018 IAAF World Under 20 (WU20) Championships that saw Kenya bag two gold medals, Wednesday finished off in a lull for the East African distance running giants.
Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka produced a stunning upset in the only distance final of the day when she ran out of the ball park, took the initiative, and eventually women 3000m gold, in 8:54.01 ahead of Ethiopian pair Meselu Berhe, who was second in 8:56.39 while Thige Gebreselema took bronze with 8:59.20.
Team Kenyan pair, Zenah Jemutai Yego was rewarded with a personal best of 9:00.76 in fifth in a race where countrywoman Mercy Chepkorir Kirarei registered a Did Not Start, a factor that could have wrecked their game plan for the race.
Earlier, Nairobi 2017 World Under 18 women 400m silver winner, Mary Moraa, continued her imperious rise on the international stage when she stopped the timer at 52.98 to finish second in her semi final and give Kenya hope of winning a rare sprint medal in Thursday’s final.
Moraa followed winner and Australia’s Ella Connolly who ran a season’s best 52.78 home to clinch the second automatic qualifying spot for the medal race with India’s Hima Das who won the first of the three semis in 52.10 clocking the fastest time of the penultimate stage.
“I’m confident I will get the medal because I trained well during our month-long residential camp at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi,” Moraa said before departing for Finland for her first ever international meet outside the country.
The reigning East Africa Schools champion said she wants to win the gold to honour her late mother who she is told was a force to reckoned in the lap-race.
“People say my mother was a great sprinter in 400m. She also did well in 800m and 1500m.
“Sadly, she died when I was two years old. My father passed on a week later. I want to follow my mother’s footsteps by winning this medal,” Moraa told SportPesa News.
The budding sprint hopeful who was raised by her grandparents until Standard Six, said she honed her skills at the Athletics Kenya- organised local weekend meets where her progress has been amazing.
The Mogonga Secondary School student plans to graduate to 800m after Finland and is grateful to Mogonga Athletics Camp colleagues in Kisii who have been more than siblings to her after her grandparents also sadly passed on.
“I currently stay at the camp. We don’t have a home so I live there during school and on holidays,” the third born in family of four remarked.
After Finland, Moraa is aspiring to land an opportunity to develop her running talent at the sprinting hub of United States of America through a collegiate athletics scholarship.
Her role model in the sport is Olympics silver medallist and women 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri who hails from the same area as the budding star.
“Obiri was a good sprinter like me before she scaled to 5000m category, I want to follow her by switching to 800m because I feel I can conquer this category like former Olympics champion, Pamela Jelimo,” she said.
In other races featuring Kenya on Wednesday, world Under 18 women 800m champion, Jackline Wambui, managed to squeeze through to Thursday’s final by the small ‘q’ route as one of the fastest losers when she was beaten to third in the first semi.
Ethiopian Fireweyni Hailu who is tipped for the gold served warning of her intent when she went out hard and closed an emphatic 2:01.96 victory, towing Delia Sclabas of Switzerland across the line to second in a national U20 record of 2:02.12.
Wambui rounded the top three in 2:03.44 as the medal hopes of the other Kenyan in the women two-lap event, Lydia Jeruto Lagat (2:04.59) dissipated at the Tampere Stadium after she could only muster a fourth finish in the second semi taken by another Ethiopian, Diribe Welteji in 2:01.89.
Katy-Ann McDonald of Great Britain finished second to bag the other automatic qualifying slot from that race.
Earlier in the morning session of Day 2 in Tampere, Kenya’s only flag bearer in the corresponding men’s 400m, Laban Kiplangat failed to progress past the first hurdle after finishing fifth in 47.96, just missing the fastest loser’s ticket taken by Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland who posted a national U20 record of 47.07 in the photo finish in Heat 6.
Besides the Moraa final in the evening session, Team Kenya’s gaze in Day 3 of action at the biennial junior track and field showpiece will be on the men 3000m steeplechase heats in the morning session where Leonard Kipkemoi Bett, is curiously the only athlete entered for the event.
Philemon Kiplagat Ruto’s name is missing on the start list with the athlete inquiring from SportPesa News about his fate from Finland.
This website contacted AK acting Chief Executive Officer, Susan Kamau and head coach Robert Ngiserei on the matter and the officials were yet to respond by the time of going to press.
Beatrice Chebet and Rhonex Kipruto got Kenya off to a flying start in Finland on Tuesday when they won the women 5000m and men 10000m gold, the former a first ever for the country with the latter coming with the added bonus of a championship record.