Kenya’s Solomon Lekuta took gold in the men’s 800 metres on the final day of the International Association of Athletics Federations World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland to seal his team’s position at the top of the medals table with six golds.
Lekuta and team-mate Ngeno Kipngetich secured their nation a third consecutive one-two in the event, with the pair coming home in 1min 46.35sec and 1:46.45 respectively.
Lekuta was just the stronger down the home straight in the Ratina Stadium.
“I’m really happy with the gold medal but the competition was really hot because everyone wanted it too,” said Lekuta.
“I’ve been training for this championship for a long time and I want to dedicate the gold medal to my parents.”
Jamaica, inspired by an audacious 100 and 200m double from 16-year-old Briana Wlliams, were second and the United States third – although the latter team had by far the most medals with a tally of 18 and were clear leaders on the placings table.
That said, it was an unusual position for this traditionally dominant nation, and their performance in the concluding event of the men’s 4x400m, where they were expected to win, summed up their Championships.
The US baton crashed to the track at the end of the first leg, and though it was swiftly picked up by lead-leg runner Elija Godwin, the loss of seconds would prove critical.
Italy and Belgium were charging ahead in the race for gold, the Italians seizing command on the third leg after an inspired run by Alessandro Sibilio.
He passed on to Edoardo Scotti who pulled further clear, the European under-20 champions eventually adding the world under-20 title in 3:04.05.
The US did well to salvage second with 3:05.26, with Britain taking third in 3:05.64.
But there was no problem for the US in the equivalent women’s race, where Taylor Manson was able to enjoy an effective lap of honour on the final leg before crossing the line in 3:28.74.
The US had got the final day off to a great start with gold in the women’s 100m hurdles, albeit by even less than thousandths of a second as Tia Jones marginally defeated Jamaica’s Britany Anderson, with both being credited at 13.012.
Has there ever been a closer verdict in athletics?
In the distance events, Ethiopia moved themselves up to fourth on the medal table with a superb brace of gold medals from 3,000m steeplechaser Takele Nigate and 1,500m runner Alemaz Samuel.
In the 3,000m steeplechase, Kenya’s Leonard Bett had been tipped to take gold and continue his nation’s fine, formidable record in the event, with the Kenyans having won gold at every edition from 1988 onwards.
But that run of dominance was put to an abrupt end thanks to a late, irresistible surge by Nigate, who out-duelled Bett in a gruelling home-straight battle to take gold in 8:25.35.
The women’s 1,500m was won in contrasting style by Samuel, who became the third successive champion from Ethiopia.
She made a long drive for home entering the final lap, which she covered in 61.04 to take a convincing win in 4:09.67 over Kenya’s Miriam Cherop and Switzerland’s Delia Sclabas.
Bulgaria’s Aleksandra Nacheva produced a stunning leap of 14.18m in the second round of the women’s triple jump to take her nation’s first gold medal in the event since Tereza Marinova’s triumph in 1996.
While that event may have gone to form, the men’s discus final did anything but, Jamaica’s Kai Chang causing a huge upset by taking gold in 62.36m.
In the women’s high jump, Karyna Taranda of Belarus took gold with 1.92m, with Ireland’s Sommer Lecky taking silver ahead of Colombia’s Maria Fernanda Murillo after both had cleared 1.90m.