The men’s steeple was one of my most anticipated races. It lived up to the hype. Yes, I hoped for Evan Jager to win the gold (as he did), but he battled on, taking bronze, getting first steeple medal for an American male in the World Championships.
Conseslus Kipruto single-handedly prevents a potential dethronement of Kenyans in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
Just like the East African runners had been seen to be plotting on how to dethrone Mo Farah in the men’s 10,000m race for a while now, the rest of the world seem to have as well been, for even a longer time, plotting to beat the Kenyans in their most successful race at the world and Olympic championships; the men’s 3000m.
With a world leading time by Evan Jager of the US a few weeks to the championships and Morroco’s Soufiane El Bakkali having also shown great form by winning two IAAF Diamond League races ahead of the championships, many were rightfully predicting the first win by a non-Kenyan at the world championships since 1987, except if one wants to count out Kenyan-born Saif Shaheen who won the titles in 2003 and 2005 as a non-Kenyan.
Despite having had to pull out of some recent races due to an injury, Conseslus Kipruto was the only solid hope for a Kenyan win. He was the only athlete from Kenya to have qualified to the finals with a capital “Q” while the defending champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, and Jairus Birech qualified by being among the fastest losers. The clear favorites to win were Jager, El Bakkali and Kipruto, but it was going to be an open race among the three.
No one was willing to set a fast pace at the start of the race and although Birech increased the pace a bit after the first 400m, the whole field remained together. The first 1000m mark was crossed in 2:51.81. Soon after that, Evan Jager took to the front in an elaborate move to break away from the rest of the field. Kemboi, El Bakkali and Kipruto remained stuck just behind him as the rest of the field were left behind. Then, with two laps to go, Kemboi slowly started to lose some ground on the three leaders with Jager still maintaining the lead through the bell. Conseslus Kipruto came shoulder to shoulder with Jager as Elbakkali remained very close behind them at the last 300m mark then took the lead with about 200m to go. A clearly delighted Kipruto began to celebrate with 50m to go before crossing the finish line in 8:14.12, El Bakkali followed in 8:14.49 and Jager came in third in 8:15.53
One interesting note here is that the three medalists will have a chance to compete against each other once more in the final event of the IAAF diamond league race in Brussels, next month.
More unpredictable and open than the men’s 3000m steeplechase, was the men’s 800m final. Although Amos Nijel had won some races leading up to the world championships his form had not been convincingly great. It was Pierre-Ambroise Boisse of France who emerged as the winner in a race that witnessed some pushing and jostling between Kpyegon Bett and Nijel. Adam Kszczot of Poland had come strongly in the last 100m to win the silver medal while Kenya’s Bett took the bronze medal.
South Africa’s new track sensation, Van Niekerk , completed an amazing evening by winning a gold medal in the men’s 400m.