For many years, Kenya’s junior athletes have conquered the world not only by winning medals, but also sometimes shattering records.
After such a promising, start these youngsters were poised to smoothly transit to senior competitions but they soon faded away leaving their fans with many questions than answers.
While others struggle to transit into senior ranks, some opt for earlier marriage thus jeopardizing their promising careers with others forced into early retirement due to injuries and a section of runners opting for shortcuts and in the end sanctioned for doping.
But it’s also debatable whether success at junior level is a prerequisite success in elite running, however according to analysis, it shows good percentages of runners at elite level were medalists during their juniors years.
Kipyegon Bett was one who was tipped to be the next David Rudisha.
At start he seemed to fulfill the promise and had lofty dreams of stepping in senior level having won silver medal at the World Youth Championships in 2015 in Cali, Colombia. He also won gold at the World Under-20 Championships over the two-lap race in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
After good show at the junior level the runner from Kericho was now seen as the next person to bring medals for Kenya at the Olympics and World Championships only to be slapped with a four-year doping ban in 2018 by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) after banned erythropoietin (EPO) was found in his blood samples.
For female athletes, most of their story is all about starting a family early which has made it difficult to make a comeback after early promise.
Roseline Chepng’etich established herself among the world’s best young steeplechasers. While still a student at Keringet Winners Girls High School, Chepng’etich won gold in 2,000m at the 2013 World Youth Championships. She also clinched another gold at the 2014 Youth Olympics and silver at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
Chepng’etich made her senior debut with selection to the 2015 World Championships in China where she finished 15th and after that disappeared from scene with reports of getting married something we could not authoritatively confirm as efforts to reach her were futile.
At a young age, Chemweno had previously exhibited the characteristics of an athlete headed for stardom in cross country, winning slots in the national team. She won her first senior 8km cross country title in Kisii in 2009, clocking 28:12 and followed this with top places in Mt Elgon and Eldoret cross country meetings. However after that Chemweno went off the radar and nobody is able to exactly tell what happened to the once budding youngster.
Naomi Misoi, a 800m athlete who represented Kenya in the 1998 World Junior Championships also faded after the championships. She later got married in her home county of Nandi after completing her studies in Sing’ore Girls High School in Elgeyo Marakwet.
Some athletes who joined the military also went off the radar. For example, former 800m junior star Vincent Malakwen’s career nose-dived after joining the army.
But what could be the reason why most of these youngsters cannot make a comeback?