On a night of sensational running at a hot and humid Stade Louis II, Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech produced the crowning performance of the tenth IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season as she took more than eight seconds off the women’s world 3000m steeplechase record*, coming home, alone and triumphant, in 8:44.32.
It obliterated the previous mark of 8:52.78 and was the fifth world record set at this gem of a meeting at the business end of the season.
The 27-year-old Chepkoech, who had come into this race with the fastest time of the season, 8:59.36, has never won a major global medal – missing a water jump and having to run back during last year’s World Championship final hardly helped her chances – but she gave an indication of her sharpness this season by taking silver in the Commonwealth Games 1500m final.
“I wanted to break the world record, that was the plan from the beginning of the season,” said Chepkoech. “And I was aware the biggest chance would be at Monaco due to weather, crowds and the whole environment. And this plan worked well.
“I knew I was running fast splits, but I was not worried. I felt strong during the race. I was thinking maybe I can break 8:50 but not at all was I dreaming about 8:44. And this time still could be improved I’m sure. Maybe my next target could be to run under 8:40.
“It is a great feeling I brought back to Kenya the steeplechase world record. I’m very proud of it.”
Beatrice Chepkoech Sitonik
Born: 6 July 2011. Coach: Bram Som.
Before her record-breaking run in Monaco, Beatrice Chepkoech was best known for her blunder in the 3000m steeplechase final at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
She missed the first water jump and carried on running alone around the bend before realising her mistake, doubling back and then having to play catch-up on the rest of the field. Having lost the best part of eight seconds on the rest of the field, it effectively ended her medal chances. And while the video of her error went viral on the internet, it was little consolation for another fourth-place finish in a global championship.
In truth, Chepkoech was one of the least experienced steeplechasers in the World Championships final.
She had attempted the event as a teenager back in 2011, clocking 10:41.3 at altitude in a low-key race in Nairobi, but then spent the next few years focusing on the 1500m on the track, along with a handful of 10km road races.
By 2015 she had reduced her 1500m PB to 4:03.28 and earned bronze in that event at the African Games. Then, towards the end of the track and field season, she returned to the barriers and lined up for the 2000m steeplechase at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin.
In a quality field, Chepkoech finished a close second in 6:02.47. She beat, among others, the likes of Germany’s Gesa-Felicitas Krause who had earned the bronze medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 just 11 days earlier.
The performance gave Chepkoech food for thought and she made the steeplechase her main focus in 2016. In her first 3000m steeplechase race for five years, she clocked 9:17.41 to finish fourth in Eugene. She consistently placed highly in all of her races throughout that year, including a fourth-place finish at the Olympic Games in Rio and an identical placing at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris two weeks later with a PB of 9:10.86.
Her progression continued throughout 2017. Following her World Championships disappointment, she gave a glimpse of what could have been by reducing her PB to 8:59.84 at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich. She also set PBs at other distances, clocking 4:03.2 over 1500m, 8:28.66 at 3000m and 14:39.33 for 5000m.
Chepkoech returned to her 1500m roots at the start of 2018, winning the IAAF World Indoor Tour at that distance before taking the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. Starting with the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, Chepkoech has won all but one of her steeplechase races in 2018.
Her stunning 8:44.32 run in Monaco took 15 seconds off the PB she had set in Paris just three weeks prior. It also made Chepkoech the first Kenyan woman to hold the world record in the 3000m steeplechase, an event that has been dominated by her male compatriots for decades.
It marked another significant step forward in the progression of the event, one of the newer standard championship disciplines for women. When the nine-minute barrier was first broken back in 2008, just 10 other women had ever run faster than 9:20. Fast forward 10 years and there are now four women with sub-nine-minute PBs, while 47 women from 18 different countries and five continents have bettered 9:20.
Beatrice Chepkoech’s progression
10:41.3 Nairobi 3 Jun 2011
9:17.41 Eugene 28 May 2016
9:16.05 Rio 15 Aug 2016
9:10.86 Paris 27 Aug 2016
9:01.57 Doha 5 May 2017
9:00.70 Eugene 26 May 2017
8:59.84 Zurich 24 Aug 2017
8:59.36 Paris 30 Jun 2018
8:44.32 Monaco 20 Jul 2018
3000m steeplechase world record progression
9:25.31 Justyna Bak (POL) Nice, 9 Jul 2001
9:22.29 Justyna Bak (POL) Milan, 5 Jun 2002
9:21.72 Alesya Turova (BLR) Ostrava, 12 Jun 2002
9:16.51 Alesya Turova (BLR) Gdansk, 27 Jul 2002
9:08.33 Gulnara Samitova (RUS) Tula, 10 Aug 2003
9:01.59 Gulnara Samitova (RUS) Iraklio, 4 Jul 2004
8:58.81 Gulnara Samitova (RUS) Beijing, 17 Aug 2008
8:52.78 Ruth Jebet (BRN) Paris, 27 Aug 2016
8:44.32 Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) Monaco, 20 Jul 2018