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Kenya misses elusive Girls 1500m gold to Ethiopia again

Jebitok in the Girls 1500m at IAAF World U18 Championships.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 15 – Once again the elusive Girls 1500m gold slipped out of Kenyan hands after Edina Jebitok settled for bronze at the 2017 IAAF World U18 Championships as Ethiopia took a 1-2 sweep on the penultimate day to continue their dominance.

At a packed Moi International Sports Center Kasarani, Kenya had her hopes carried on the shoulders of Jebitok and Rachel Nzangi to reclaim the title it last won at the Lille, France 2013 edition, thanks to Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon Chepng’etich who clocked a Course Record of 4:09.4.

Kenyan fans cheering their team at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

However, despite being cheered on by a near-capacity home crowd, Jebitok found the going tough in the hands of Ethiopians; Lemlem Hailu who went on to claim gold in 4:20.80 and Sindu Girma who grabbed silver in 4:23.16.

The other Kenyan in the race Nzangi finished fourth after clocking 4:24.70 to see Kenya end the last edition of the IAAF World U18 Championships without a gold medal in the Girls 1500m.

“I was poised for a win but I felt pain in my left leg and I couldn’t gather enough energy to push me through. I am not impressed. I should have won gold at home,” Jebitok said after the race.

Kenya’s Edina Jebitok walking away after finishing third as Ethiopians celebrate. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Few athletes will have faced such an intimidating atmosphere as young Ethiopian pair Lemlem and Sindu, who entered the Kasarani Stadium to the sound of crowd screaming for their Kenyan rivals.

The early pace had been slow, the field passing 400m in a pedestrian 1:13.21 with South Africa’s Nicole Louw leading the way, and the second lap was almost identical, with the field passing 800m bunched together in 2:26.43.

By then Jebitok was looming towards the front, seemingly preparing for an early strike, but it would only be the sound of the bell that coaxed her to the front some 300 metres later.

Ethiopian Hailu celebrating after winning Girls 1500m at IAAF World U18 Championships.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

By the time she passed 1200m in 3:35.69, Jebitok was burning all cylinders at the front, trying desperately to shake the presence of Hailu and Girma, who dogged her slipstream on every step. Approaching the final turn they bolted past, and despite close to 50,000 fans screaming their support, Jebitok had no response.

Hailu continued to accelerate down the home straight, breaking the virtual tape in 4:20.80, her last 300m a swift 45.00. “I was sure of winning coming into this race so I just kept my focus,” said Hailu. “I’m very happy to have won Ethiopia a second gold medal.”

Her teammate Girma came through strongly for second in 4:22.14. “I expected stiff competition from Kenya in this race,” she said. “I had prepared well and I’m happy with the silver medal.”

-additional reporting from IAAF-

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