Kenya has a singular opportunity to showcase her sporting prowess as it hosts the 2021 World Athletics Under-20 Championship this week. Importantly, it is a moment to demonstrate the country's hospitality and organisational capabilities.
This global age-grade championship, which was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, started on Tuesday night with an elaborate opening ceremony at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, in Nairobi County, albeit behind closed doors as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 900 athletes from 114 countries are participating in this 18th edition of the championships. Kenya has a contingent of 46 youngsters competing in the championship. Notwithstanding the withdrawal of big guns United States, Britain, Japan and Germany, hosts Team Kenya will be looking to retain the top position on the medal table, a feat they attained in Tampere, Finland, in 2018.
Crucially, Athletics Kenya and the Ministry of Sports have spelt out plans to groom the current crop of junior athletes for future senior events -- such as the World Athletics Champions next year in Oregon, USA, and the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in England, the United Kingdom, all the way to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
It is, therefore, crucial that the authorities ensure proper planning to take sports to the next level. It is particularly important to provide mentorship and rewards, including scholarship to the younger sports men and women, to inspire them.
But Kenya's dominance in the middle and long-distance races faces increasing threats from traditional rivals such as Ethiopia, fast-rising Uganda, the US and the vastly improved Europeans. Failure to win a medal in the Olympic men's 3,000 metres steeplechase, which is Kenya's forte, in Tokyo should worry us all. Even so, based on the country's performance there, our youngsters should aim for a bounty of medals at home.
We believe AK has picked the best team and the athletes are raring to go. We wish them every success.