This year’s World U20 Championships in the Kenyan capital Nairobi came to a close on Sunday with the final session producing a string of exciting performances to wrap up the five-day event in spectacular fashion.
The host nation finished with a flourish adding three more gold medals to make it eight gold medals at the championship.
First, Emmanuel Wanyonyi won the men’s 800m in 1:43.76, the eighth fastest time in the world this year in open competition.
That is 0.03 faster than the 2012 championship record set by Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the year that he went on to become the Olympic silver medallist behind Kenya’s David Rudisha at the Olympic Games in London.
17-year-old Wanyonyi is still eligible to defend his title at the next edition of the World U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia next year.
Algeria’s Mohamed Ali Gouaned came in second in a national U20 record of 1:44.45, while Noah Kibet of Kenya also set a personal best time of 1:44.88 to claim bronze.
A second gold medal was clinched in the women’s 1,500m by 18-year-old Purity Chepkirui, who finished ahead of Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji, to win her first world title in 4:16.07.
Welteji, a champion over 800m in Tampere in 2018, clocked 4:16.39 for the silver, with Chepkirui’s compatriot Winnie Jemutai claiming a second medal for the Kenyan team in the race in 4:18.99.
Amos Serem then made it a hat-trick of gold medals with an impressive victory in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase in 8:30.72 finishing more than two seconds ahead of Tadese Takele of Ethiopia (8.33.15). There was yet another bronze medal for the host nation as Simon Koech came in third in 8:34.79.
After what was considered a slow start to the event, Kenya ended the championship with 16 medals: eight gold, one silver and seven bronze.
Elsewhere, Mizam Alem and Melknat Wudu completed an Ethiopian 1-2 in the women’s 5,000m finishing in 16:05.61 and 16:13.16, respectively. Prisca Chesang of Uganda came in third in 16:21.78.
Wudu and Chesang had been initially disqualified for stepping inside the kerb on the bend but the decision was then reversed following an appeal.
There was also delight for other African countries in the final session of the championship.
South Africa produced a stunning performance in the men’s 4x100m relay winning the race in a World U20 Championship record time of 38.51 seconds ahead of Jamaica and Poland, respectively.
Namibia claimed silver in the women’s 4x100m relay in a national U20 record time of 43.76 seconds with Nigeria taking bronze in a season’s best of 43.90 seconds. Jamaica won the race in a world U20 record time of 42.94 seconds.
Nigeria claimed gold in the women’s 4x400m relay in a world U20 leading time of 3:31.46 ahead of Jamaica and Italy. Botswana also ran a world U20 leading time of 3:05.20 to win the men’s 4×400 relay. Jamaica came in second (3:05.76) with hosts Kenya third (3:05.94).
While Kenya topped the medal standings, Finland came in second (four gold, one silver, 0 bronze) followed by Nigeria (four gold, 0 silver, three bronze), Ethiopia (three gold, seven silver, two bronze) and Jamaica (three gold, six silver, two bronze).
With the conclusion of the championship in Nairobi, the flag was passed to the Colombian city of Cali at Sunday’s closing ceremony in Kasarani Stadium.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe hailed the event as a “highly successful” championship despite the logistical challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 100 countries competed in Nairobi with 18 teams winning gold medals, 35 winning medals and 63 securing top eight finishes.
Kenya, Finland, Nigeria and Botswana were among the countries that produced their best ever world U20 championships. Namibia and Israel claimed their first gold medals and Cyprus won its first medal.
Overall, four world U20 records, 15 championship records, 11 area U20 records, 68 national U20 records and 10 national senior records were set during the championship.
“These championships have not just taken place, they have been highly successful,” Coe said. “We have all been so impressed with the range and depth of talent we have seen from these young athletes.”
“The last World U20 championships featured names like Armand Duplantis, Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Peruth Chemutai among others, all Olympic champions just three years later. So it’s reasonable to think we’ve seen some of the Paris 2024 champions-to-be in Nairobi.”