19 MAR 2000 General News

Kenya reigns supreme in the Junior Men's Race

19 March 2000Robert Kipchumba may have been the man with the gold medal hung around his neck but the junior men's race was more of a demonstration of Kenyan superiority of the art of cross country running.

All six of the Kenyan team hit the front almost immediately after the gun, accompanied only by Tanzania's Martin Sulle and Ethiopia's Bruk Debrework.

At the halfway point the consistent pressure started to tell on Debrework, who drifted off the back of the pack as a result of the ferocious pace being forced by the Kenyan squad and principally by Philemon Kemei.

Kemei, it later transpired, was the appointed pacemaker and set up a phenomenal race for the medals between his compatriots just after they embarked on the final lap.

However it was the long-striding Kipchumba, who was second in the Kenyan championships this year, who prevailed in 22:49, coming home three seconds ahead of silver medallist Duncan Lebo.

The reigning Kenyan junior champion John Korir, many people's pre-race favourite, had to settle for third in 22:55 while the courageous Kemei overtook the dogged Sulle in the finishing straight to ensure that Kenyan took the team title they have won on 12 of the last 13 occasions.

The clean sweep of the individual medals was the first since 1993 when Philip Mosima, Christopher Kosgei and Josphat Machuka took the honours. All three have gone onto become world renowned runners in the senior ranks and a bright future surely beckons for Kipchumba, Lebo and Korir.

Kipchumba, who only started running seriously last year and may be one of the most exciting talents to emerge in recent years even by the exalted standards of Kenyan distance running, was typically modest about his achievement.

"It was my first time in the world championships, so I did my best," Kipchumba said, with alarming understatement.

"I run for my country. This medal is for my team," a slightly disappointed Korir commented.

Behind the Kenyans, Ethiopia took their regular set of team silver medals while the surprise bronze medallists were the Ugandan quartet, several of them from similar ethic backgrounds as their Kenyan rivals but born over the border from their neighbours.

The bronze medals were Uganda's first honours at an IAAF World Cross Country Championships with previous athletics stars track performers like 1972 Olympic 400m hurdles champion, and former world record holder, John Akii-Bua, and more recently, 400m runner Davis Kamoga.

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