Kenya lose steeplechase title at Tokyo Olympics as Kigen happy with bronze

Men's 3000m Steeplechase - Final - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 2, 2021. Getnet Wale of Ethiopia in action as he leads the race REUTERS

Kenya lost the men steeplechase title for the first time in the last nine Olympic Games as Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali won the title at the 2020 games in Tokyo yesterday while Benjamin Kigen won bronze.

To many though it was not shocking considering that Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto missed the cut at the national trials and could not travel to Japan.

Even before the 2019 World Championships there was also fear that Kenya would lose the title, but in the end Conseslus was able to keep the title in Kenya by the thickness of his vest.

Soufiane Elbakkali of Morocco celebrates after winning gold REUTERS

And considering the inexperienced runners that flew the Kenyan flag in Japan and the nature of position the Kenyans might be happy after all with the bronze medal.

Apart from Kigen, Abraham Kibiwott, who finished 10th yesterday and Leonard Bett who could not make the finals were in the line-up for Kenya in Tokyo.

Despite the disappointment of losing what has been traditionally Kenya’s race, Kigen managed to open the country’s medal account in Tokyo by winning bronze behind Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma.

He clocked 8:11.45 while El Bakali won in 8:08.90 with Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma second in 8:10.38.

Kigen was however not discouraged by the loss of the title and was happy to have won a medal at his first Olympics.

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)

“I am really happy, my aim was to get a gold medal at the Olympics but I got bronze. I am happy about it, since it's my first Olympics. I'll go and work on some mistakes I made so that I can win next time. This will motivate me to work even harder and I thank God.

“I was psyched and my prayer was to get a medal despite the track not being favourable because of the wet conditions,” Kigen said.

“If my opponents had not opened that gap, I feel I would have won gold or silver.

The other Kenyan in the race, Abraham Kibiwott finished in 10th position in the race that was ran under wet conditions with rain having pounded the Olympics Stadium track minutes before the race.