All's well that ends well: Hats off as hosts conclude World U-18 Championships in style

By DENNIS OKEYO: Monday, July 17th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
IAAF WORLD U18 CHAMPIONSHIPS KASARANI STADIUM Kenyan 800m Gold Medalist Jackline Wambui celebrates his win during the IAAF World U18 Championships at Kasarani Stadium on Sunday 16/07/17.[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

It’s a winning finish for Kenyans as they wind up fourth with four gold medals.

It was the ending every Kenyan was praying for.

The record crowd that turned up at Kasarani Stadium yesterday was not expecting anything less than glory from their stars, and the youngsters did not disappoint.

It was the last of the five-day IAAF World Under-18 Championships and it was befitting for the hosts to win gold in a race they have dominated in all championships.

The win by Leonard Kipkemoi Bett in the 2,000m steeplechase not only brought life to the fans who filled the stadium but also served as cold revenge to arch rivals Ethiopia.

Kenya’s sworn enemies on the track over the years had threatened to spoil the party for the hosts after Selemon Barega beat Kenyans Edward Zakayo and Stanley Mburu in the 3,000m.

The win by the Ethiopian came when Kenyan fans were still dancing in the sun after the golden exploits of Jackline Wambui in the 800m girls’ race.

She led compatriot Lydia Jeruto to sweep the top two medals and leave the rest of the field to fight for the bronze.

Saturday was surely a poor day for Kenya in the event as Ethiopians won the girls’ 1,500m and the boys’ 800m titles in front of an unbelieving home crowd.

Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga watched as the Ethiopians basked in glory on the athletics altar of their rivals.

Many on social media argued that the presence of the two political leaders brought "swara" (bad luck) to the competing lot.

Whether that works or not is open to discussion, but those who believe in bad omens will say it was befitting for Kenyans to win two gold medals yesterday (with the political duo missing in attendance).

Kenya's performance was also a befitting end to the championships that will be the last of its kind to be staged.

The turnout over the last three days will also be part of sports history in the country. Only attendance at the 1987 All Africa Games, held at the same venue, came close to the U-18 event.

Fans began streaming into Kasarani as early as 8am, never mind the first event was set to begin at 3pm. Security was tight as fans walked from the bus stage outside Safari Park Hotel to the stadium’s gate 9, which was the main entrance.

The 4km distance from the stage to the gate did not deter, and even when the last event of the championships was over, the fans were not in any hurry to leave.

Who could blame them?