Women's 3000m Steeplechase; Another Great Day for Kenya in Moscow by Justin Lagat

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For the first time in athletics history, Kenyan women won the women's steeplechase. Here, Justin Lagat celebrates that Milcah Chemos Chewya and Lydia Chepkurui went 1, 2 in the steeplechase! 


Chepkurui_LydiaQ-Moscow13.jpg
Lydia Chepkurui, silver medalist in Moscow steeplechase, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Women's 3000m Steeplechase; Another Great Day for Kenya in Moscow
by Justin Lagat
 
Despite the proverbial warning that we should never count our eggs before they hatch, many Kenyan fans had already begun counting the medals that Milcah Chemos and Lydia Chepkurui were destined to win for the country in Moscow before they even ran in the finals. The two had been dominating the world in the IAAF Diamond League races since the start of the year without much competition from other athletes. Lydia's shape particularly had been tremendous earlier on when she had managed to run the world leading time, but then Chemos began to look stronger as the championships approached. For many Diamond League fans, the race for gold in Moscow was definitely going to be between the two athletes.
 
During the Kenyan trials, Milcah Chemos had emerged the winner, Gladys Jerotich second, Hyvin Kiyeng third and Lydia Chepkurui fourth. I was at the terraces watching the trials in Nairobi and could not help observing that at times athletes who do very well out of the country do not necessarily do well in Kenya. I have watched Ezekiel Kemboi, the defending world champion in the men's steeplechase, get humiliated in Kenya a number of times, but he is always lucky to get the wild card because the officials know him to do well while out of the country. Lydia Chepkurui too almost lost her chance to go out and represent the country at the world championships. I think Athletics Kenya should in the future devise a better criterion to know the athletes who are best suited to go and run better in specific climates.
 
Gladys Jerotich, second at the Kenyan national trials, could not make it to the finals in Moscow after finishing 12th in heat 2 during the first round of the competition. This was a completely different performance from the one she did at the trials. Athletes who had finished behind her during the trials advanced comfortably to the finals in Moscow.
 
The three Kenyan women who turned up at the finals were simply great, and there were three Ethiopians to match them too. The leading pack was reduced to six athletes within the first one kilometer; three Ethiopians and three Kenyans. In fact, the cameras only focused on these six athletes to an extent that if someone had missed watching the start of the race by 3 minutes via the KBC channel, he/she would have thought that it was an exclusive race between the Ethiopians and the Kenyans alone! All the six athletes kept together till the remaining one Kilometer when Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya began to lose some ground, then Etenesh Diro of Ethiopia stumbled slightly and left a slight gap between herself and the leaders.
 
The four leaders stuck together till the last 600m when Chemos started to move at the front, Chepkurui followed her and one of the Ethiopians, Sofia Assefa, was the only other competitor who was still able to react to the move. Hiwot Ayalew slowly began to drift away in fourth position. With 300m to go, it looked as though a gold medal for Kenya was already assured. The silver medal still looked very slippery with the Ethiopian threatening to overtake Lydia Chepkurui if she would show any slight weakness. We held our breath as the three athletes jumped the last water barrier. Chemos looked safe with the gold. Assefa could snatch the silver from Chepkurui before she could reach the finish line. But, it looks like a barrier helps one to open a gap in a steeplechase race because we saw some gap open between Chepkurui and Assefa after the last barrier. That's the time when the Kenyan fans with whom we were watching the TV together stood up and celebrated as Chemos crossed the line in a world leading time of 9:11.65, followed by her compatriot in 9:12.55, and in third place was Assefa in 9:12.84. Two other Ethiopians followed in 4th and 5th positions and the other Kenyan came in 6th.
 
With the addition of these two medals to the team, Kenya is now currently in 3rd place behind USA and Russia with two gold, two silver and one bronze medals. It is a great start so far and Kenyans are now more optimistic of getting other medals in the remaining events. Kenya's president himself will be there on Thursday to cheer when the men's 3000m steeplechase final will be run.

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