Mangata Ndiwa led Kenya to its eighth straight junior men's team championship this afternoon at Uminonakamichi Seaside Park in Fukuoka, with his teammate Leonard Komon finishing immediately behind him.
Strong winds sweeping the park prompted caution from most athletes, and for the first two laps of the four-lap race the race was characterized by a very large lead pack, spreading wide when the wind was behind and packing up like marathoners as they pushed in to the wind. On the third lap, Kenya's team began to assert itself, though halfway through, at the 5K mark, there were still 21 athletes within two seconds of the lead.
By the beginning of the fourth lap, Ndiwa, 5th in this race last year, and Komon had narrowed the pack to themselves, and Tariku Bekele and Ibrahim Gashu of Ethiopia. In the final hills, Bekele moved past Ndiwa and Komon in an effort to pull away. For a while it looked like he might do it. But Bekele had misjudged his moment, and was running by himself into the headwind on the finishing stretch.
Ndiwa and Komon, working together behind him, prevented his lead from growing, then closed in, sweeping by with less than 100m remaining.
Ndiwa then took the victory by one second over Komon.
"We knew you could not kick for 200m into this wind," said Ndiwa. "We were relaxing, waiting to push. Our major plan was to win the gold, so we were patient."
"I think I did make a mistake," admitted Bekele. "If I had waited, I would have been better able to challenge at the end." Bekele improved his place from 6th behind Ndiwa last year, to third, but had hoped to repeat his older brother Kenenisa's 2001 victory.
With Joseph Ebuya in fourth and Bernard Matheka in ninth, Kenya scored 16 points to defeat Ethiopia with 24. The Kenyan junior men have now won every team race since 1999.
Parker Morse for the IAAF