This is Justin Lagat’s column on Day 1 of the 2022 World Athletics U 20 Champs in Cali, Columbia.
A gold medal on the first day of the 6-day World Athletics under 20 Championships is every other country’s dream, and Kenya just achieved that courtesy of Betty Chelangat in the women’s 3000m final that happened at 1 AM Kenyan time.
Together with her compatriot, Nancy Cherop, the two started to break away from the rest in the second half of the race, but Ethiopia’s Tsiyon Abebe stuck behind them.
At the bell, Chelangat quickened her steps and stretched the gap between her and the two chasers, becoming a clear contender for the gold as the battle for silver remained between Abebe and Cherop. As Chelangat went ahead to cross the finish line in 9:01.03 to become the new world champion, Abebe overtook Cherop to take silver in 9:03.85 against Cherop’s 9:05.98 for the bronze medal.
At the end of the day, Kenya’s national anthem got played inside the stadium.
In the other distance track final of the day, the men’s 5000m, Kenya’s Samuel Kibathi was almost reaching a touching distance from the finish line as he tried his best to maintain the bronze position he was in. He dived for the line, but too early, as he staggered and landed on the ground some meters behind the finish. He woke up when Habtom Samuel of Ethiopia and Gebeyehu Belay of Ethiopia had already run past him and on time to see Uganda’s Rogers Kibet edging him at the finish line as he came in 6th.
Ethiopia’s Addisu Yihune had comfortably won the race that had turned into a crowded dash for the medals in the last 400m in 14:03.05. Merhawi Mebrahtu of Eritrea took the silver in 14:03.33 as his countryman Samuel came in third for the bronze medal in 14:03.67.
The morning session had been a wonderful day for Kenyan fans as they saw all their runners proceed to their respective next stages in the women’s 800m heats and 3000m steeplechase semi-finals and in the men’s 1500m.
Reynold Cheruiyot appeared the most impressive in the second heat of the men’s 1500m as he won it, some 50m ahead of his competitors, in the fastest qualification time of 3:40.96. Daniel Kimaiyo had won the first heat in 3:42.69, becoming the second fastest qualifier. The third heat, which had no Kenyan runner in it, was won by Ermias Girma of Ethiopia in 3:45.40.
In the women’s races, Nelly Chepchirchir, who appeared effortless winning the first heat in the 800m races, carries the hopes of many Kenyans to get a gold medal in the event, while Faith Cherotich, the world reigning bronze medalist, looks set to upgrade her medal in the women’s 3000m steeplechase after she won her semi-final.