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A-Z of IAAF World Under 18 Championships held in Kenya

July 22, 2017 7:01 AM
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A-Z of IAAF World Under 18 Championships held in Kenya

The IAAF World Under 18 Championships held over five days at Kasarani was supposed to be for athletes, who were 18 years and below, just as the name suggests.

The issue of age would never go away though. Not that there were teams that complained about others fielding overage athletes, but the social media was awash with questions whether most competitors should really have competed at the games.

The main focus was the Ethiopians and who would blame Kenyans on social media as most Ethiopian runners really looked old? Or maybe they were using the Ethiopian calendar to determine the age.

The Local Organising Committee must thank Safaricom for having brought some beautiful girls to the Kasarani event.

They were the point of focus to many fans in attendance and it is not strange that most male fans fought their way to Kasarani in the last two days of the competition.

If anyone ever doubted whether Kenyans love athletics, then they need not doubt anymore.

Going by the number of fans, who turned up at Kasarani to cheer on their stars, it is obvious they love the sport.

The last two days of the competition registered record turnouts and the IAAF confirmed that Kenya had broken the record of huge crowds at youth events.

Remember the name Dominic Samson? At this championships, he went by the bib name Ndingiti.

Well, this is the school boy, who was the main subject on social media ahead of the competition after he was pictured in one of the local dailies showing how ‘blessed’ he was between his legs. Just to jog your memory, he won bronze in the 10,000m Race Walk.

We can’t begrudge Kenyans the fact that they love their athletics. But listening to fans at Kasarani, it seems most of them did not understand their sport, going by the questions some kept asking.

Why is that race starting there and not at the start line? Or Why are there barriers and how will they jump the water barrier?

Those are some of the questions they were asking. It seems Kenyans need education on sports in general.

Despite the exploits of Julius Yego, Kenya still has a long way to go in field events. Representatives at Kasarani did not deliver as earlier though and expected.

Gate 9 was a popular gate at Kasarani as this was the only one used by fans to gain entry. Getting into the main stadium was however not that difficult as there you got choose where it was convenient for you.

Traders will always gain whenever there is a sporting event at Kasarani. They turned up in large numbers for the Under 18 event, but the only difference is that they were not allowed to hawk inside the stadium.

Maryam Abdulhameed became the first female athlete to represent Iraq at a global athletics event. She finished 10th in girls’ high jump.

Apart from track action, javelin was another popular event for Kenyans. But this is not because of the exploits of Julius Yego, but Cuban Marisleisys Duarte, who was the crowd’s darling. Kenyans kept cheering her on and she did not disappoint. She won gold.

The venue of the Under 18 event was a sight to behold after renovations were undertaken at the stadium and hopefully the management will maintain it.

South African Lemao Tshenolo made history by winning the Rainbow nation their first ever global title in the 100m.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta was the face of this championships and she was an ever present figure over five days at Kasarani. And who can forget Mary Moraa, who won Kenya silver in the girls’ 400m.

The championships also served us with unique names which many will be quick to say they are not Kenyan. We had names like Ita Nao (javelin), Samson Dominic (Race Walk) and Edward Zakayo (3000m) among others.

The officials who handled the event were near flawless as they ensured almost everything was in place before any event. Never mind there were some false starts in girls’ 3,000m race.

There were no glaring omissions like what was witnessed at the national championships where a steeplechase race was almost starting before officials realised there was no water.

Kenyans kept waving the national flags at Kasarani while others were also dressed in attires that had the national flag on printed on them.

Long queues were the order of the day at Kasarani, especially in the last days of the competition. This was caused by the tight security checks at the gates.

When Kenyan boys Leonard Bett and Cleophas Kandie were doing their lap of honour around the stadium, the sizeable Ethiopian crowd bowed to them. This was a sign of respect between the two nations and Kenyans returned the favour when the Ethiopians won in some of their races.

Britain, United States, Italy and Japan pulled out of this event citing insecurity issues, but that was never to be as peace prevailed over the five-day period.

No major incidents were reported and countries that pulled out might be wondering why they missed the event after all. As for the screens, it was the most popular thing inside the stadium as fans were happy seeing themselves on the stadium screen.

The blue tartan track that was laid before the championships will remain as one of the major hallmarks of Kasarani. It was not only the first of its kind in Kenya, but it also helped a number of athletes run their season best times.

Before President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered for free entry into the stadium, the event was threatening to be a non-starter as there were no fans in the stands.

The LOC, in their own wisdom, had decided to charge Sh200, never mind the tough economic times and the distance between Kasarani and City Centre, which means more expenses in terms of transport. In the end, the LOC might have thanked the president for his gesture.

The games village was at Kenyatta University and days to the competition, there were fears that it might not be ready to welcome the hundreds of athletes.

In the end, however, the LOC and the university worked hard and in the end, it was a success and for their troubles, KU will also be getting a tartan track.

The first days of the competition saw many athletes fear that maybe they had come to Kenya at the worst time of the year when the weather was unforgiving.

However, the unpredictable Nairobi weather was not going to disappoint. After the unexpected rains on the opening day, athletes and fans enjoyed the sunny conditions thereafter.

After the Ethiopians had spoiled the party for Kenya in the 3,000m, the crowd at Kasarani was stunned into silence.

However, the next race was the 2,000m steeplechase and the Kenyans showed why they have the x-factor in the race as they left the Ethiopians in their wake and brought the crowd back to life once again.

The Under-18 Championships started as the World Youth event in 1999 before taking the current name. Nairobi 2017, however, marked the end of the Under 18 championships and continents will now have their own events of the same.

Edward Zakayo went into athletics with an aim of rescuing his family from poverty. He was moved to tears when his mother turned up at Kasarani to support him and the journey to help his family is on track after he won silver in the boys’ 3,000m.


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