SA tops the medals table at world under-18 athletics championships
SA amassed 10 medals, including five golds, in the five-day competition in Nairobi
Nairobi — SA completed a clean sweep in the boys’ sprints to top the medals table for the first time at the world under-18 athletics championships in Nairobi on Sunday.
SA, fifth in 1999 and 2005, amassed 10 medals including five golds in the five-day championships.
SA started the final day with a 1-2 in the men’s 200m, won by Retshidisitswe Mlenga in a season-best time of 21.03 sec.
The 17-year-old Mlenga, who already held the best time at altitude of 21.14, held off compatriot Tshenolo Lemao in a reverse result to the men’s 100m.
"I came in very focused, having made a mistake in the 100m finals that happens to be my favourite race," said Mlenga.
"I listened to my coaches’ instructions this time, and I am happy to have won the gold medal."
Lemao, who won SA’s first-ever gold in the 100m, took silver in a personal best 21.12 while Germany’s Luis Brandner (21.23) was third.
Among SA’s other gold medallists, high jumper Breyton Poole set an under-18 leading 2.24m on Saturday.
The 17-year-old, who cleared a personal best of 2.18m at the South African youth championships in April, pushed five of his rivals to achieve their career bests.
"I was patient from the beginning and this made [me] more confident as the event went on," said Poole, who was well clear of second-placed Chima Ihenetu of Germany who jumped 2.14m.
"I feel great having set two best times in the same competition."
The current world under-18 record of 2.28m was set by Huang Haiqiang of China in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2005.
Poole is the second South African to win the world title after compatriot Jacques Freitag clinched the first world youth champion title in 1999 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
SA also took gold in the boys’ and girls’ 400m hurdles.
Defending champions the US pulled out of the championships, along with six other top nations, citing security concerns.
China finished second in the medals table on five gold, two silver and four bronze, with Cuba in third on eight medals — five gold, two silvers and a bronze.
Hosts Kenya finished a disappointing fourth, but with the highest number of medals, 15 — their lowest position in the biennial championships.
A capacity crowd of more than 60,000 spectators had turned out at the Kasarani stadium to cheer the Kenyan runners win the boy’s 2,000m steeplechase and girl’s 800m races, but poor team tactics put paid to the hosts’ hope of a third world title when they lost the decisive boys’ 3,000m to archrivals Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s world under-20 5,000m champion Selemon Barega beat two Kenyans to add the 3,000m title to his collection.