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Previews29 Jul 2022

WU20 Cali 22 preview: distance


Kenya's Noah Kibet at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)

More than 1500 athletes from 145 teams are set to compete at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 between 1-6 August.

Here we take a look at the women's and men's distance events at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium.

Women’s 800m

USA appears to hold the strongest hand in the women’s 800m due to the formidable duo they are sending to Cali: Juliette Whittaker and Roisin Willis. Whittaker, 18, ran her PB of 1:59.04 to take the US U20 title in Eugene last month, the second time this year she has run below two minutes. Willis – whose mother Breda Dennehy-Willis was a 5000m Olympian for Ireland in the Sydney Olympics – finished second to Whittaker at the US U20 Championships in 2:00.32 and ran her PB of 2:00.03 in early June. The 17-year-old rising star also won the US high school 400m title last month in 52.64.

Going up against them are several strong candidates for gold, among them Switzerland’s Audrey Werro, who won the European U20 title last year at this distance and who lowered her PB to 2:00.28 in Geneva last month, a Swiss U23 record. Slovenia’s Veronika Sadek should also feature, a 2:01.52 athlete this year.

Ethiopia will have Ksanet Alem, who ran 2:01.61 for 800m and 4:06.29 for 1500m in Spain last month. Britain’s Abigail Ives should also be in the mix, a 2:01.88 athlete this year. Kenya’s Nelly Chepchirchir looks the stronger of their duo – she has run 2:02.00 this season. Australia’s Claudia Hollingsworth and Ethiopia’s Wezam Tesfay should also go close, with season’s bests below 2:03.

Men’s 800m

Ethiopia’s Ermias Girma appears to have a great shot at winning his first major international title when the 17-year-old takes on the world’s best teenagers in Cali. He clocked a hugely impressive 1:44.36 in Lokeren, Belgium, in May and lowered his 1500m best to 3:36.28 later that month. However, his sole race since then came at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon where he was knocked out in the 800m heats after finishing fourth in 1:49.36.

Kenya’s Noah Kibet could be the biggest danger. The 18-year-old won bronze in this race last year and clocked a season’s best of 1:44.89 in Ostrava in May before reaching the 800m semifinals at the World Championships in Oregon.  

Poland’s Kacper Lewalski should also have a huge say in the medal shake-up. The 19-year-old was sixth in the world U20 800m final in Nairobi last year and won silver at the European U20 Championships. He clocked 1:44.84 on home turf in Silesia at the end of last season and this year he has a best of 1:45.48.

Eritrea will have a big contender in Abderezak Suleman, who has run 1:46.56 this year, while Djibouti’s Abdo-Razak Hassan should also feature, a 1:46.75 athlete this year. Three other athletes in the entries – which total a whopping 62 competitors – have run under 1:47 this year: Italy’s Francesco Pernici, Ethiopia’s Mersimoi Kasahun and USA’s Samuel Rodman.

Women’s 1500m

Ethiopia has the two quickest U20 women in the world this year and, as such, Birke Haylom and Mebriht Mekonen will be hoping to lead the field home in Cali. Haylom, 16, ran her PB of 4:02.25 at altitude in Nairobi back in May, which given the thin air of the Kenyan capital suggests she can go much quicker. Her 17-year-old teammate Mekonen ran her PB of 4:03.29 to finish seventh in Ostrava back in May, and she followed that up with a 4:03.60 in Montreuil, France, just two days later. Kenyan duo Brenda Chebet and Purity Chepkirui could put up the strongest fight. Chebet is a 4:05.50 athlete this year while Chepkirui is the reigning world U20 champion who has run 4:08.08 this year. She also won silver at the African Championships last month.

The European charge will be led by Norway’s Ingeborg Ostgard, the European U20 champion who lowered her PB to 4:09.91 in Oslo in June. Spain’s Mireya Arnedillo is also a contender, given she was sixth in the world U20 1500m final last year and has since lowered her PB to 4:11.06. USA will be represented by Addison Wiley and Mia Barnett. Wiley is the US U20 champion and has run 4:15.53 this year, while Barnett has run 4:11.32. Others of note include South Africa’s Danielle Verster, Switzerland’s Lilly Nageli, Australia’s Nicola Hogg and Japan’s Azumi Nagira, who have all run 4:15 or faster this year. 

Men’s 1500m

Kenya’s Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot looks the standout athlete in the men’s 1500m field, possessing a PB of 3:34.02 which he ran in Heusden, Belgium, earlier this month. Before that he had finished a close fourth in the Kenyan Trials for the World Championships in Oregon, clocking 3:34.77 at altitude in Nairobi. His teammate Daniel Kimaiyo will also have eyes on gold in Cali – the 17-year-old clocked his PB of 3:36.09 to win the Kenyan Trials for Cali in Nairobi earlier this month.

Ethiopia will send a strong pair into the event in Ermias Girma and Adihana Kasaye. Girma is also entered for the 800m in Cali and he possesses a PB of 1:44.36 in that event, speed which could be put to great use in the 1500m final. He has a 1500m best of 3:36.28 which he ran in May. Kasaye recently finished third in the African Championships in 3:38.27 and his PB of 3:36.38 was run indoors in February.

USA’s Nathan Green ran his PB of 3:37.46 to reach the NCAA final in June and he went on to take the US U20 title at the same track in Eugene last month. Luxembourg’s Vivien Henz has broken his PB four times this year and it currently stands at 3:38.89, while Hungary’s Ferenc Soma Kovacs has run 3:39.88 and should also feature in the final.

Women’s 3000m

Ethiopia appears to have a great chance of reclaiming this title from Kenya as they send to the line the two fastest U20 women in the world this year in Medina Eisa and Tsiyon Abebe. Eisa, 17, clocked 8:41.42 to finish third at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rabat last month, where Abebe, 15, lowered her best to 8:44.82 in sixth.

Kenya will have high hopes of retaining the title won last year by Teresiah Muthoni Gateri and they look to have two great chances with Betty Chelangat and Nancy Cherop, who have run 8:51.33 and 8:52.86 this year.

Finland’s Ilona Mononen is the fastest European with the 9:02.00 she ran last month and the reigning European U20 champion will be looking to improve on her fifth-place finish in last year’s world U20 final.

There are five other athletes in the field who have run below 9:20: Agate Caune of Latvia, Ina Halle Haugen of Norway, Siona Chisholm of Canada, Kate Peters of USA and Sofia Benfares of Germany.

Men’s 3000m

Ethiopia’s Diriba Girma looks to hold a strong chance of retaining this title for his nation following Tadese Worku’s victory in Nairobi last year. The 19-year-old is the quickest in the field this year via the 7:38.79 he ran indoors, and he will be joined in Cali by Melkeneh Azize, who ran 7:42.95 indoors.

Uganda also has a strong contender for gold in Dan Kibet, who has run 7:45.73 for 3000m and 13:19.38 for 5000m this year. Kenya’s challenge is led by Edwin Kimosong Kisalsak, who has run 7:50.71, while teammate Felix Kiptarus Korir should also put in a bold showing.

There is a pair of strong entrants from Europe in Ireland’s Nick Griggs and Denmark’s Joel Ibler Lilleso. Griggs was European U20 champion over 3000m last year and clocked a European U20 indoor mile record of 3:56.40 in March before smashing the Irish U20 record with 7:53.40 this month. Lilleso was European U20 champion at 5000m last year and clocked 7:48.34 for 3000m indoors. He lowered his 5000m best to 13:29.58 last month.

Sweden’s Jonathan Grahn has clocked 7:54.66 indoors this year, while Australia’s Thomas Diamond, Djibouti’s Hassan Idleh Diraneh and Mexico’s Ian Sanchez are the others who have dipped under the eight-minute barrier this year.

Women’s 5000m

Ethiopia scored a 1-2 in this event at last year’s championships in Nairobi via Mizan Alem and Melknat Wudu and they look capable of repeating that feat in Cali. Wudu, the silver medallist at 5000m and bronze medallist at 3000m last year, tops the entries with the 15:08.65 PB she ran to finish fourth at the African Championships last month, while she also set a 3000m PB of 8:45.76 in Doha in May. She will be joined in Cali by teammate Medina Eisa, who lowered her PB to 15:14.01 last month.

Uganda’s Prisca Chesang won bronze in this race last year in Nairobi and the 18-year-old is sure to put in another strong showing after clocking 15:34.19 at altitude in Kampala, Uganda, last month. She clocked her PB of 15:05.39 in Hengelo last year.

Spain’s Carla Dominguez was fifth in the world U20 final last year and the European U20 champion showed strong form earlier in the summer, clocking a 5000m PB of 15:38.61, though she didn’t finish a couple of 5000m races she lined up for in June.

Kenya is sure to have its typical strong showing and they’ll be represented here by Maureen Cherotich and Jane Ghati Chacha. Cherotich was sixth in the world U20 final last year and clocked a PB of 15:41.26 at altitude in Nairobi earlier this month, where Chacha was runner-up in 15:50.53. Also among the entries is Finland’s Ilona Mononen, who has run 15:43.20 this year. She is also entered for the 1500m and 3000m.

Men’s 5000m

Ethiopia’s Addisu Yihune finished fourth in the world U20 5000m final in Nairobi last year, but the 19-year-old looks likely to leave Cali with a medal – quite possibly gold. He’s the quickest U20 in the world this year with the 13:02.10 he ran in Grosseto, Italy, in May, and he will be backed up here by teammate Gebeyehu Belay.

They will face stiff competition from an athlete beaten into fifth place in Nairobi last year, Eritrea’s Merhawi Mebrahtu, who also finished fourth in the 3000m at those championships. He clocked an Eritrean U20 5000m record of 13:04.49 in Huelva, Spain, in May and was knocked out in the heats of the 5000m at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22. Mebrahtu’s compatriot Samuel Habtom should also feature strongly – the 18-year-old was the world U20 bronze medallist at 3000m last year and lowered his 5000m best to 13:13.74 in May, then finished 17th in the world 10,000m final in Oregon.

Uganda’s hopes are led by Peter Maru, who was fifth in the world U20 1500m final in Nairobi last year and who lowered his 5000m PB to 13:07.42 in Oslo last month. He will be joined by teammate Rogers Kibet, the promising 17-year-old who clocked a world U18 lead of 13:14.68 in May.

One to watch from Japan will be Keita Sato, the 18-year-old who set a national U20 record of 13:22.91 in May. Kenya’s hopes will be carried by Samuel Kibathi and Nelson Mandela, with Kibathi the faster of the two on personal bests with 13:35.60.

Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics