Previews14 Aug 2021

World U20 Championships previews: men's distances and race walks


Tadese Worku in action at the World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 (© Getty Images)

Almost 1000 athletes representing 119 teams will be in action when the World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi 21 takes place in Kenya from 17-22 August.

The opening ceremony will take place on 17 August ahead of the first day of competition on 18 August.

Here we take a look ahead to the men's distances and race walks.


Men’s 800m

Poland’s Krzysztof Roznicki has already won one major championship title this summer – the European U20 Championships – and in Nairobi the 17-year-old looks capable of making it a double. He’s the fastest in the field on paper, having run a blazing 1:44.51 on home turf in Chorzow back in June.

However, in Nairobi he will face a considerable task in toppling Kenya’s Noah Kibet, who ran 1:45.11 in May. Kibet’s compatriot Emmanuel Wanyoni should also be in the medal hunt, holding a best of 1:45.81 this year, as will Algeria’s Mohamed Ali Gouaned, who has run 1:45.47.

South Africa’s Renier de Villiers (1:45.95), Canada’s Abdullahi Hassan (1:46.16) and Poland’s Kacper Lewalski (1:46.72) also hold the credentials to contend for the top places. The South American challenge is led by Brazil’s Leonardo Santos, who has run 1:46.97 this year.


Men’s 1500m

Kenya’s Kamar Etiang might have missed out on the Olympic Games but the 18-year-old has a big chance here to put that disappointment behind him by winning gold on home turf. Etiang ran superbly to finish second at the Kenyan Olympic Trials back in June, clocking 3:33.02, and while he hasn’t raced since, a reproduction of that level of form should be good enough for gold.

He’ll need to be at his best, however, given the presence of Ethiopian duo Melkeneh Azeze and Wegene Addisu, who have run 3:33.74 and 3:34.21 respectively this year.

Azeze finished a close fifth at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials with Addisu one place behind. Vincent Kibet Keter of Kenya should also be in the medal hunt, with a best of 3:35.21 this year, while the strongest European on paper is Spain’s Pol Oriach, who has run 3:37.67. Eritrea’s Abderezak Mehamed Osman is next quickest with 3:39.48.


Men’s 3000m

A new event on the men’s side at this championships which should, if form is reliable, come down to a Kenyan and Ethiopian battle for supremacy. It’s the latter which appears to have the strongest hand, with 19-year-old Tadese Worku already an established performer at senior level. The world U20 cross-country silver medallist lowered his PB to 7:34.74 in Szekesfehervar in July which stands alone in this company, though his compatriot Ali Abdulmena shouldn’t be far away either.

The Kenyan duo of Benard Kibet Yegon, who’s run 7:55.01 this year, and Daniel Kinyanjui, who’s run 7:55.96, should also mount a strong challenge. Morocco’s Yassine Laarj, an 8:02.83 performer this year, is next fastest, while the European challenge is led by Slovenia’s Vid Botolin who has clocked 8:04.23. Ugandan duo Dismas Yeko and Dan Kibet, who have both run 8:06 this year, could also spring a surprise.


Men’s 5000m

The presence of a sub-13-minute man at any U20 event means he occupies rarefied air, and that’s certainly the case here as Ethiopia’s Addisu Yihune goes into the final ranked 25 seconds clear of his nearest rival based on personal bests. The 18-year-old narrowly missed Olympic qualification when finishing a close fourth at the Ethiopian Trials in Hengelo in June, clocking 12:58.99.

The next quickest in the field is Eritrea’s Habtom Keleta, who clocked 13:23.15 this year, while Kenya’s Levi Kibet (13:26.11) and Benson Kiplangat (13:40.41) are likely capable of much swifter times, as is Ethiopia’s Mebrahtu Werkineh, who has a best of 13:41.92.


Men’s 3000m steeplechase

An event traditionally dominated by Kenya saw a changing of the guard at the last edition of this championships in 2018, where Takele Nigate took gold for Ethiopia, and they are capable of continuing their steeplechase takeover here through Bikila Tadese Takele, who has run 8:09.37 this year. He ran that to take victory at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo in June but was well below his best in Tokyo itself, finishing eighth in his heat in 8:24.69 and bowing out.

If the 19-year-old is at his best he’ll be tough to stop, though either way Kenyan duo Simon Kiprop Koech and Amos Serem will mount a strong challenge, holding respective bests of 8:18.43 and 8:20.26. Ethiopia’s Samuel Firewu, an 8:20.27 performer this year, and Uganda’s Leonard Chemutai, an 8:40.88 athlete, are next best on paper. The European challenge is led by Italy’s Cesare Caiani and France’s Baptiste Cartieaux, who finished third and fourth respectively at the European U20 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, last month.


Men’s 10,000m race walk

As is the case in the women’s race walk, a pair of authorised neutral athletes appear to hold all the aces in the men’s event, and it will be a surprise if neither Maksim Pyanzin or Dmitriy Gramachkov take gold. Pyanzin walked a world U20 lead of 38:48 to win the Russian title in Cheboksary in May but he finished 10th at the European U20 Championships last month. Gramachkov finished second to him in Cheboksary in 39:47 and took bronze in Tallinn last month, with Spain’s Paul McGrath taking gold in 42:32.19.

McGrath will try to make it a championship double in Nairobi, where he will be backed up by compatriot Joe Luis Hidalgo, who has clocked 41:35 this year. India’s Amit Khatri opened his season with a national U20 record of 40:40.97 in January and a reproduction of that in Nairobi should be enough to get the 17-year-old a medal. The African challenge will be led by Algerian pair Sohail Abderahmane Aloui and Abdenour Ameur, who both clocked 41:47 this year.

Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics