Kenya: Will Kenya's 3,000m Brigade End Decade-Long Drought?

(file photo).

Since Athens hosted the first edition of the World Athletics Under-20 Championships, Kenya has topped the medal standings in the junior track and field competition four times.

In the inaugural edition held in Athens, Kenya finished fourth overall with a total of nine medals.

As Kenya prepares to host teams from around the world from August 17-22 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, for the global event, the country is banking on a team of 45 athletes to retain the title the country won in Tampere, Finland, in the 2018 edition.

The women's 3,000 metres team of Japan-based Teresia Muthoni and Zena Jemutai will be out to end a drought of victory stretching nearly a decade.

Kenya last won gold medal in the women's 3,000m race through Mercy Chebwogen at the 2020 edition of the championship in Barcelona, the youngster finishing ahead of Ethiopia's Hiwot Geebrekidan.

Muthoni and Jemutai beat tough competition at last month's national trials at Kasarani Stadium to qualify to represent Kenya at the junior championship.

Muthoni, who arrived in the country for the trials upon graduating at Serra High School in Japan, surprised the field to win the race in 8min,51.69sec ahead of Jemutai who crossed the line in 8:55.75.

The two are sharpening their skills ahead of the championships, hoping to win medals for Kenya. Muthoni who hails from Kinangop, Nyandarua County told Nation Sport said she is yearning for victory as she prepares to represent Kenya for the first time.

Her big challenge is expected to come from Ethiopians who are the defending champions but this does not bother her much.

"I have participated in a number of races in Japan and I think I have enough experience to handle my opponents. With two weeks left to the championship, I'm just fine-tuning a few things and focussing my training on specific things as directed by our coaches," said Muthoni.

She started running a pupil at Kirathimo Primary School in Kinangop in Nyandarua County before coach Francis Mwaniki took her under his wings.

"I used to run barefoot to school, and I also got to participate in various races before my current coach Francis Mwaniki saw my potential. My career changed from that point and I'm happy I have finished secondary school studies and I can concentrate on athletics on a full time basis," Muthoni, who draws inspiration from world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, said.

She is among the large number of athletes who have been contracted in Japan, having signed a contract with Japan-based Daiso Company. She has also joined the Rosa Associati Management camp which now takes care of her training needs.

Her team mate Jemutai is thrilled at the prospect of competing alongside Muthoni. Jemutai's aim is to make the final, and then aim for the podium. She finished fifth in race at the last edition in Tampere.

"In the 2018 edition in Tampere, the other competitors took advantage of me because I was the lone competitor from Kenya. This time round, I am happy that will team up with Muthoni. We will come up with a strategy and run well to win medals," she revealed.

She has been training at Kapsait Athletics Training Camp in the company of senior athletes, something she reckons could work in her favour on race day.

"Training with the likes of world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgey has always motivated me. Even getting a slot in the Kenyan team is largely due to the proper training sessions we did together back at Kapsait. I'm grateful to my training mates because they push me hard," said the Form Two student at Korongo High School in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

The 3,000m women's race will be the first final of the championship. It will be held on August 17 at 4.15pm.

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