Nairobi — Fast-rising junior athlete Nelly Jepchirchir says she already has a secret card to play during the women's 800m semi-finals at the World Under 20 Championship in Cali, Colombia.
The 2017 World Under 18, 800m silver medalist went one step closer to striking gold in Cali when she clocked 2:06.66 to win Heat 1 of the women's two-lap race on day one of the biennial competition.
Slovenian Veronika Sadek (2:07.10) and Finland's Veera Mattila (2:07.36) finished second and third respectively.
"I am confident because we have trained well. For the semi-final, I want to control the pace so I can get to the final," the lanky lady said.
The Kapsabet-born Jepchirchir confessed she was glad to have overcome the first hurdle considering the long journey Team Kenya had to take from Nairobi to the Southwestern Colombian city.
"We were tired when we arrived in this country (Colombia). From Kenya to Amsterdam, I think it was eight hours, and then from Amsterdam to Panama, it was around 14 hours," she said.
Jepchirchir, who trains at Kapchemoiywo camp in Nandi, under the tutelage of 2008 Olympic silver medalist Janeth Jepkosgei, is tipped to be one of the stars of this year's World Under 20 Championship.
Another rising star hoping to fulfill her potential in Cali is Pamela Kosgei who finished second in Heat 1 of the women's 3000m steeplechase, clocking 10:09.89 behind winner, Sembo Almayew of Ethiopia.
Pamela, the younger sister to world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei, admitted she needs to pull her socks up in subsequent races.
"For the next race, I want to do more to ensure I finish in first place. Today's race was not perfect... it was not good but it was also not bad. It was medium," Pamela, who won the national under-18 cross country title in February this year, said.
Elsewhere, Reynold Cheruiyot, winner of Heat 2 of the men's 1500m, hopes that sharing the same surname as Olympic 1500m silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot will be his lucky charm.
Cheruiyot timed 3:40.96 in first place, ahead of Luxembourg's Vivien Henz (3:45.04) and Canadian Max Davies (3:45.55).
"I love sharing the same name as Timothy Cheruiyot. That guy is my inspiration," Cheruiyot said.
He added: "The heat was good; I did not face any challenges. It was just too slow and I wanted to feel smooth so I pushed the pace."