As the curtain came down on the IAAF World U18 Championships contest in Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, the South African squad had all the bragging rights: They dominated the five-day competition with a total of 11 medals (five gold, three silver, and three bronze).
It was the best medal haul the South African team has ever achieved at a major global athletics championship event, according to Sport24.
South Africa was closely followed by China, which also raked in 11 medals, including five gold, two silver, and four bronze. Cuba came in third with eight medals: five gold, two silver, and one bronze, while Kenya followed with a total of 15 medals, including four gold, seven silver, and four bronze. Kenya’s closest rival Ethiopia finished fifth with a total of 12 medals.
In the male 200m final, South Africa’s Retshidisitswe Mlenga gave an impressive finish with a time of 21.03 and 21.12 respectively, swapping positions after they had another one-two finish in the 100m race earlier last week.
“I came in very focused, having made a mistake in the 100m final, which is my favorite race. I followed my coach’s instructions, and I’m very happy to have won a gold medal,” said Mlenga after the race.
In other competitions, South Africa’s Valco van Wyk finished fifth in the men’s pole vault final, clearing 4.55m, while Robert de Villiers finished 11th in the men’s 2000m steeplechase with a time of 6.05.23. Jana van Schalkwyk finished 12th in the women’s javelin with a best attempt of 47.64m.
“What we have achieved is beyond expression. We are very excited with what our youth team has achieved,” said Athletics South Africa President Aleck Skhosana.
In the rear end of the results table was Uganda, which regretfully failed to win a single medal in all competitions.
The event, which brought together hundreds of athletes from across the world, was the last edition of the biennial international athletics competition for youth under the age of 18.
The decision to conclude the world championship was reached last year at the 206th IAAF Council Meeting, which was held after the 2016 Summer Olympics.
According to the council, the decision was made with the intention of improving under-18 competitions at a continental level.
Being the first ever IAAF World Championships event to be held in the country, Kenyans came out in large numbers to support their athletes and get a glimpse of some of the popular international athletes.
According to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which organizes the event, the penultimate session was attended by nearly 88,000 spectators – 37,600 in the morning and 50,300 in the evening – making it the best-attended session of any age-group athletics event in history.