This is Justin Lagat’s column on the women’s steeplechase and men’s 800m. Justin made a great observation on how high the standard has been in all events in Tokyo. With 206 countries now members of World Athletics, medalists can come from any of them. In the triple jump, for example, the 100th country picked up an Olympic medal, Hughes Fabrice Zango is from Burkina Faso!
If there is something that is, so far, unique about these Olympic Games, it is the fact that all the events seem to have suddenly turned so competitive that it appears to be anybody’s to win, even from the first rounds. There is hardly anyone getting lapped on the track in the distance races, and potential winners are only being realized in the last laps. It is the same case in the other track events as well.
For example, if one would have read today’s results of the men’s 800m final backward, where USA’s Clayton Murphy finished last behind Botswana’s Nijel Amos, no one would have easily noticed it is listed upside down! Similarly, no one would have rightly guessed who the women’s 3000m steeplechase title would go to.
Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai made history in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final. She stunned everyone by running a new national record of 9:01.45 to become the first-ever Ugandan woman to win an Olympic gold medal or any other medal at the Olympics.
Chemutai seemed to control the first stages of the race as she crossed the first kilometer in 3:05.2 and continued to lead before Courtney Frerichs of the US overtook her and increased the pace and created a single file behind her with about 3 laps to go. Frerichs was already more than ten meters ahead of everyone at the bell, but Chemutai gradually began to close the gap on her to overtake with 200m to go. Frerichs would finish second in 9:04.79 ahead of Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyen in 9:05.39.
Also, today, the long wait that was slowly beginning to get uncomfortable for the Kenyan fans finally came to an end. Emmanuel Korir finally secured the first gold medal for the nation in the men’s 800m race. His disqualification in the men’s 400m heats on Sunday seemed to have turned into a blessing in disguise for him as he got enough time to fully focus on the 800m. Then, a slow first 400m of the 800m race was run at a very slow pace as the first runner crossed it in around 54 seconds and Korir got the opportunity to still run a 400m race in the last lap.
A 51 seconds lap resulted in victory for Korir as he crossed the finish in 1:45.06. Ferguson Rotich came in strongly to finish second in 1:45.23 securing the silver medal as well for Kenya ahead of Patryk Dobek of Poland who finished in 1:45.35 taking the bronze medal.