World Under 18 champions Leonard Bett, Mercy Chepkurui, Mary Wambui and George Manangoi lead Kenya team of 27 athletes to the next month’s World Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
The team was unveiled yesterday following the conclusion of two-day trials at the Moi Stadium, Kasarani. Bett, Chepkurui (2,000m steeplechase), Wambui (800m) and Manangoi (1,500m) won their respective races during the World U-20 Champs and were also dominant in their specialties at Kasarani yesterday.
Others are silver medallists Edward Zakayo (5,000m), Naadokila Mpoke (400m/H), Mary Moraa (400m) and Lydia Jeruto (800m). Stanley Waithaka, who won bronze in 5,000m alongside Samson Ndigiti (10,000m Walk) and Ednah Jebitok (1,500m) also made the team that will represent the country at the global show.
World U-20 3,000m champion Celliphine Chepteek also grabbed a rare chance to defend the title she won in Bydgoszcz, Poland two years ago. Waithaka and Zakayo revealed how they worked as a team to book a ticket to Europe.
“We have known each other since the World U18 Champs and we believe we can work as a team in bringing home two of the three medals,” said Zakayo. “I had a slight injury soon after the Commonwealth Games, where I won a bronze medal and I am happy that Waithaka helped me make the team. He followed my requests and I can’t thank him enough.”
The athletes are expected to report to Riadha House on Sunday for further instructions as far as the training camp is concerned. Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei, said the selected team has the capacity to better the country’s medal tally from 2016, where they won five gold, two silver and two bronze medals to finish second behind United States (11, 6, 4). “I want to request the coaches across the country to change tactics to conform with the modern championships,” said Tuwei. “We have very good athletes in some of the events but they missed out on the team due to lack of correct tactics.”
Head coach Robert Ngisirei said Tuwei’s directive will be observed as they seek to better performances from last edition.
“Things are changing drastically the world over and we must change our techniques too,” said Ngisirei. “Sometimes it is difficult to guide senior athletes, who strictly follow their managers’ instructions but we are glad the juniors are always eager to listen to us. My hope is that they will listen to us in training and during the championships.”