The 2017 IAAF World Youth U-18 Championship will be the tenth and the last edition of the bi-annual international athletics competition for youth (U-18) athletics. The five-day competition is being held from July 12th -16th at the MOI International Sport Center in Nairobi, Kenya. 

The first edition of the event was first held in Bydgoszcz, Poland July 16th - July 18th, 1999.

Bahamas Athletics was pleased to catch up with one of the Kenyan council members, retired three time Boston Marathon winner, Ibrahim Kipkenboi Hussein during the 2016 IAAF World Juniors U20 Championships. Hussein, who is also winner of the New York City Marathon in 1987 was the first Kenyan (and first African) to win the Boston Marathon setting a world record and also having a book written in his legacy.

Hussein was in Poland along with the Kenyan delegation to observe the 2016 World Juniors U20 to ensure of his country’s readiness to host the 2017 World Youth Championships.

Out of 150 countries originally competing to host the 2017 championships, Kenya was very lucky to be declared hosts; Hussein stated that the 2017 World Championships are the first time to be held in Sub-Saharan Africa. USA withdrew because of Kenya’s participation. 

Despite the win, Hussein stated that the win has not been easy as they won against the big countries. “We had some problems as every country does but we want to prove to the world that not only can we run but we can organize such an event.” In 2007 Kenya had the world cross country championships and according to Hussein those championships were very successful with the highest attendance. “One could not get a place to sit or stand because persons from all over the country came to attend that event.”

At the time of our discussion, Kenyan was in preparation stage and had some financial issues but those issues were soon resolved and Kenya was well prepared for the championships now on-going. “We are very confident that they can fill the 16,000 seat stadium as everyone are very excited to have a world championship. “We don’t care if it is youth or juniors, locals only want to come and see the championships,” says an elated Hussein. 

Everyone are well aware of the great and rich talent of African athletes and it is obvious that pride is very strong among African athletes; the question can be asked why do African athletes do so well?  Hussein advises that it is mainly due to local the role models. Ibrahim said he too had role models to emulate which assisted greatly in his success.

“In my village, there were athletes who went to the United States on scholarships and that inspired me. It encouraged and motivated me to run well and study so I can get a scholarship and to also go to the USA to study,” says Hussein. 

“There are many kids who like to be like you. When we return home, we go the village and inspire other younger athletes and develop the sport to inspire their athletes. Some of the athletes want to take a short cut; they leave high school to be a professional athlete and stall their education which is not good.”

Hussein believes that leaders in his country need to ensure that the young athletes remain in school and compete their high school education and once they are completed then they can go to the USA. “An education is very important.”

So Kenya’s readiness for large events is now on display. Thousands of visitors are now in Kenya to have a first-hand experience of Kenya which is a country recognized internationally as the power house of long distance runners.

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