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Successful World Under-18 championships wrapped up in Kenya

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Biennial International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) W-U18 championships wrapped up here on Sunday.

The Nairobi 2017 championships marked the 10th edition, but will be the final such WU-18 event.

Over 2,000 athletes and their officials from 131 countires and regions participated in the Nairobi 2017 competitions where hosts Kenya emerged in position four, but boasted in their preparation of a very successful global event.

The East African nation was beaten in the medal ranking by South Africa, China and Cuba. Its long-time rival in long distance races, Ethiopia, emerged in position five.

Despite putting up a spirited competition in all the 17 events on offer, Kenya only managed 4 gold medals, 7 silver, and 4 bonze compared to the overall winner South Africa’s 5 gold, 3 silver, and three bronze.

Chinese athletes took home 5 gold medals, 2 silver, and 4 bronze while Cubans went away with 5 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze.

The Ethiopians, who posed the greatest challenge to the Kenyans in the 3,000 meters and steeplechase events for men, managed 4 gold medals, 3 silver and five bronze.

Kenya’s hopes to top the medal list had been heightened during the 800 meter event for girls when Jackline Wambui and Lydia Jeruto Lagat outpaced their Ethiopian rivals to bring home gold and silver medals.

Despite Kenya losing the gold medal to Ethiopians in the 3000 meters race where Stanley Mburu Waithaka and Edward Zakayo managed second and third positions respectively, hopes for the Kenyans were rekindled again during the steeplechase event where local athletes managed the first two positions.

Leonard Kipkemoi and Cleophas Kandie gave the boys from Addis Ababa a run for their money when they left them trailing to position three and four with a huge gap between them.

But when it came to the 4X400 mixed race, two boys and two girls from each of the participating countries, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians could not match the speed of the Brazilians.

The weekend events attracted one of the largest crowds, where the 60,000-capacity stadium was bursting at the seams.

Earlier, organizers of the event and some of the veterans spoke highly of the preparations, saying Kenya had delivered its promise to host a successful global event.

“We have done very well as a country. We have delivered the competitions beyond the expectations of the IAAF,” said Local Organizing Committee Chief Executive Officer Mwangi Muthee.

He was optimistic that all Kenyan youths participating in the five-day track and field extravaganza would one day become “superstars.”

“These are youngsters competing under intense pressure. I am optimistic all of them will become superstars in their respective fields,” said Muthee.

Renowned athlete Paul Tergat, veteran of the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races said he was very satisfied with the performance of the Kenyans. He was also amazed by the enthusiastic crowds that had turned up for the championships.

Tegla Loroupe, another legend in the 3000 meters race and marathon said the young Kenyan athletes should in future be allowed to attend the competitions with their own coaches and trainers.

“We must support and empower our coaches. Our girls should be allowed to attend the competitions with their coaches whom they are familiar with,” she said.

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