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Athletics

Holders Wanyonyi, Chepkirui vow to defend titles in Cali

Heristone Wanyonyi celebrates after winning the World U20 title PHOTO/World U20 LOC
  • The two are the only defending champions heading back
  • The World Under-20 Championship starts on Tuesday in Cali, Colombia
  • Team Kenya has already arrived in Cali

Herristone Wanyonyi and Purity Chepkirui will be the only defending champions in Kenya’s contingent of 28 athletes heading to Cali, Colombia, for the 2022 World Under-20 Championships.

Wanyonyi clinched the walking race title, the first ever in the event for Kenya in any global competition across the race while Chepkirui clinched the 1500m title, when the competition was held on home soil last year, delayed from 2020.

And now, the two have vowed to defend their titles in Cali, in their final year of junior category racing. Wanyonyi is not only seeking to defend his title as he also targets a new personal best.

“I know I will face stiff competition, especially from Asian countries that are very good at race walking. However, I am not worried at all. I am going to try to defend my title and if all goes well lower my personal best,” said Wanyonyi.

Wanyonyi who is also Team Kenya’s captain for the global showpiece is also adamant Kenya will successfully defend the overall title.

“The team is ready and we promise Kenyans we will not let them down in Cali. We have done enough preparations and we thank our coaches who have really helped us improve,” he said.

Exit juniors on a high 

Purity Chepkirui and Winnie Jemutai celebrate after winning at the World U20 in Nairobi. PHOTO/World U20 LOC

Meanwhile, Chepkirui wants to exit the junior category with another successive title in Colombia, a second successive crown in the 1500m race.

Chepkirui who looks up to double World and Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon believes she has trained well and is in the best shape to head out and battle for the crown, though she reckons competition will be tough.

“This being my last year competing in the junior ranks I want to win another title before I move to senior level next year. I know there is some pressure on me to deliver since I am the defending champion but I am also ready for the challenge ahead,” she said.

Chepkirui who bagged silver at the Africa Senior Championships in Mauritius in June says she has gained alot from competing with senior athletes.

“There are some contrasts between junior and senior ranks and thus i have learned a lot which I think will give me an upper hand when we compete in Cali,” she added.

Chepkirui, a student at Tiloa secondary school in Nakuru county will team up with compatriot Brendah Chebet in their quest to ensure the title remains with Kenya.

Meanwhile, Noah Kibet who clinched silver in the 800m race is looking forward to upgrade to a gold and defend the title won by his compatriot Emmanuel Wanyonyi.

Kibet heads to Cali with a world of experience, having competed at the World Championships where he reached the semis. He has also competed in two Diamond League races and will look towards his experience to bag gold.

The team has already landed in Cali and are looking forward to an explosive start to competition. Head coach John Ngisirei remains optimistic that they can do another title haul to ensure Kenya finishes top of the world.

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