A painful disqualification in the 4x400m mixed relay was the final push that Sylvia Chelangat needed to book herself a place in the women’s 400m finals in the day one of the World Athletics U20 Championships at Kasarani Stadium yesterday.
There was a cocktail of experience in the first day of action in Nairobi that saw the quartet of Chelangat, Kennedy Kimeu, Elkanah Kiprotich and Loice Moraa slapped with a penalty for rule violation.
Kenya had finished second behind Nigeria in their heats, but was nonetheless kicked out of the race after Kiprotich stepped on the curb.
But the disqualification was somehow a blessing in disguise for three of the four athletes, who would otherwise participated in three races in a single day, had they also progressed to the semis, held yesterday afternoon.
Chelangat, who is coached by the former world champion, Janet Jepkosgei, stormed to Saturday’s final with a new personal best (PB) after clocking 53.49. She was second behind Nigerian Imaobong Uko who posted 52.33 in the women’s heat 3.
“I was so disappointed to learn that we were disqualified,” Chelangat told reporters.
“That setback gave me the much-needed push because I knew this was my last chance if I were to remain in the competition.
“I knew that I had no chance if I had lost this race. I’ve never run (55) but today I’ve done 53.49.”
Chelangat, who will be sitting for her final secondary school examinations later in the year, is curious about what her performance will be in the final.
“I would want to lower it further to 52 but I know that will depend a lot on the competition in the final,” she said.
But just like Chelangat, Kiprotich and Kimeu also made amends when they booked places in the 400m men’s final.
Kiprotich finished third behind Anthony Pesela of Botswana while Kimeu came second behind South African Lythe Pillay who is fresh from taking part in the Tokyo Olympics.
“I shed tears when I learned about the disqualification (in mixed relays 4x400m) but now I can afford a smile after progressing to the final (400m),” Kimeu told Standard Sports in a post-race interview.
Sylvester Simiyu, however, bid the championships goodbye after he failed to sneak past the preliminary round in the men’s 100m.
Simiyu finished a distant fifth in heat 6 in a new personal best after slashing 13 milliseconds from his previous PB (10.79). His new time now stands at 10.66.