Africa’s top athletes between the ages of 15 and 17 from more than 30 countries went through their paces at the first African Youth Championships in the Nigerian city of Warri, which ended on Sunday (31).
A number of the medallists, especially those in the middle and long distance events can have ambitions of climbing the podium again at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, this summer.
The Kenyan pair of Mercy Chepwogen and Daisy Jepkemoi have already won gold medals at the IAAF World Junior Championships last summer, in the 3000m and 3000m Steeplechase respectively, and on the evidence presented in Warri it will be difficult to stop them adding World youth crowns to their collection.
On the opening afternoon of the four-day Championships on Thursday, Chebwogen held off her team mate to take the gold in 9:17.52 with Jepkemei having to settle for second with 9.17.69 while Ethiopia’s Aldema Teter Mihrat clocked 9:19.41 for the bronze medal.
Two days later it was Jepkemei’s turn to triumph as she led a Kenyan one-two in the girls’ 2000m Steeplechase. She ran a personal best of 6.24:52 to move up to 10th on the girl’s all-time list for the event.
““I was tired after having run the 3000m on Thursday,” said Jepkemei. “Now I will go back home a build more endurance running up hills. At the World Youth Championships, my aim is to improve my time,” she added, suggesting that there is plenty more in the tank and even the World youth best of 6:11.83, held by Ethiopia’s Korahubsh Itaa since 2009, could be under threat.
Jepkemei’s compatriot Stella Ruto, a bronze medallist in Barcelona behind Jepkemei last summer, was second 6.30:64.
Kenyan boys also impressed on the track, especially Robert Biwott who won the 1500m on Friday in 3:41.96 and then returned to action in the Warri Township Stadium on Sunday to take the 800m title in 1:47.01.
““This was a fantastic (1500m) race. I started off cautiously to size up the field. With two laps to go I made my move. I was comfortable throughout the race,” said Biwott, after his first victory.
Kenya’s Edwin Koskei Meli won a physical 2000m Steeplechase final in 5:42.18, just edging out Ethiopia’s Kahsay Meresa Hailu by 0.02.
However, at least Ethiopia could claim the honours in the girls’ 800m as Aliyi Zeyituna won in 2.05:05 with her team mate Olti Durets Edau second in 2.06:04.
Nigeria topped the table with 13 gold medals, with Egypt second with eight victories, and a good number of the host’s wins came in the sprints.
Two sprint doubles for Nigeria
Divine Oduduru dominated the boys’ 100m as he powered to glory in 10.62. Ethiopia provided a surprise silver medal in this event for fans more used to seeing their athletes do well over longer distances when Atsibeha Amanuel Abebe clocked 10.86.
Oduduru later took the 200m in 21.56 while his team mate Deborah Adewale also did a 100m and 200m double with winning times of 11.87 and 24.13.
Nigeria also had success in the field with triple jumper Fabian Ime Edoki improving his personal best by exactly half-a-metre to win with 15.18m.
Gambia’s Tijani Keita won the boys’ 400m in 47.41 while one of the most popular winners was Morocco’s Siba Rhizilane, who was clapped by an enthusiastic audience every time she jumped and equaled her personal best of 1.80m to take the gold medal by 15cm.
Egyptian throwers provided most of their country’s moments in the spotlight.
Mostafa Mohamed Esraa Mohamed improved her best by 42cm to 61.52m and won by more than five metres.
In the boy’s Shot Put, Egypt’s Hamza Mohamed Magdi Mohamed won with 20.17m, a distance that makes him a potential medal contender in Dontesk, with his fellow Egyptian Salem Elghoba Sherif Adel Ahmed taking the silver with 19.57m.
The honour of being the very first winner in the Championships history went to Egypt’s Amira Khaled Mohammed who took the girl’s discus with 42.40m on Thursday.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF