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Kenyans eye on Ethiopia in battle for Junior Worlds


by John Kwoba

NAIROBI, July 8 (Xinhua) -- A second in athletics is important, a season quite eventful and two years can be too long to determine one's career, especially for a youth athlete.

However, for World Junior 3,000m champion Mercy Chebwogen, who was superior in Barcelona when she was a youth, the two year period might actually describe her short life on the track.

"Winning is the ultimate goal in athletics. I made a mistake in the Kenyan trials and now I have to try my luck at the senior level. I believe those who beat will do us proud," she said.

But for other runners, the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon in the U.S. will be a chance to move a step up their development programme.

World Youth champions Lillian Kasait Rengeruk, Alfred Kipketer and Rosefline Chepngetich, however, will be keen to embrace the assumption that working for the national team is an honour no Kenyan could pass up.

"I want to get a gold in Eugene. It is my last event as a junior. Not so many athletes have a chance to compete twice under this category. It will work well to boost my resume as I progress to the senior level," said Kipketer on Tuesday in Nairobi.

The World Junior Championships will be held in U.S. in exactly two weeks from today. If the record-breaking results of the country's national trials for the games are anything to go by, then Oregon 2014 is set to be a special championship indeed.

Among the winners of U.S. junior titles were the likes of Kaylin Whitney, who broke the world youth bests in the 100m and 200m, and heptathlon specialist Kendell Williams, who set a US junior record in the 100m hurdles.

The U.S. has topped the medals table at six of the past 10 editions of the IAAF World Junior Championships.

Kenya, Jamaica, Germany and Russia have been the other countries that have challenged the US domination.

U.S. best medal haul came in 2002 when they bagged 21 medals, but their best tally of gold medals came two years later in 2004 when they topped the podium no fewer than 13 times.

But from Africa, the war in the middle and long distance races will be down to Kenya and Ethiopia. Morocco, Eritrea and Uganda will be the other contenders keen to raffle the status quo.

Ethiopia's junior 1500m record-holder Dawit Seyoum and world youth 3000m champion Yomif Kejelcha lead their team and have good prospects of striking gold at Oregon 2014.

Each edition of the IAAF World Junior Championships is an adventure for Ethiopian athletics fans hoping for an early glimpse of prolific youngsters who might go to dominate their event at senior level.