Emmanuel Wanyonyi celebrating after clocking 1:43.76 record in 800m final during World Athletics U20 Championships at the Moi International Sports Complex. Aug 22, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

World U20 championships 800m gold medallist Emmanuel Wanyonyi remains one of the favourites for the 2021 Rising Star Award.

The Kosirai High School form two student is among the five men who have been nominated for this year’s award. The winners will be selected by an international panel of experts and be announced live at the World Athletics Awards 2021 on December 1.

But Wanyonyi, who secured a hard-fought win and running a new Championship Record of 1:43.76 at the championships in Nairobi in August, faces stiff competition from American duo of Sean Burrell and Erriyon Knighton, Ethiopia’s Tadese Worku and Sasha Zhoya from France.

Wanyonyi raced exclusively in Nairobi this year and won only one final – but that victory came in the race that mattered most. He has set his sights on breaking David Rudisha’s world record of 1:40.91.

Before he reached the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, Wanyonyi had finished second at the Kenyan trials for the event, meaning he had barely registered on the radar as a pre-championship medal hope.

But, inspired by running in front of a home crowd in Nairobi, Wanyonyi was the fastest through each round of the men’s 800m at the World U20 Championships, clocking 1:46.51 in his heat and 1:46.15 in his semifinal. By the time he advanced to the final, the 17-year-old was brimming with confidence.

Teammate Noah Kibet led for the first half of the final, going through 400m in a swift 49.39 with Wanyonyi just a stride behind. Kibet continued to lead until the final bend when Algeria’s Mohamed Ali Gouaned edged ahead, but Wanyonyi wasn’t finished.

Digging deep, Wanyonyi hit the lead with about 30 metres remaining and crossed the line in 1:43.76. Not only was his time a championship record, it was also a Kenyan U18 best.

“Running a time of 1:43.76 at high altitude and setting a championship record has just confirmed that indeed I am good in this race,” said Wanyonyi, who is coached by 2007 world champion Janeth Jepkosgei.

“I will keep pushing to see how much I can lower my new personal best. Who knows, maybe I can one day bring down Rudisha’s world record.”

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