Kenyans give up steeplechase gold

By Jonathan Komen: Sunday, August 13th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
United States’ Emma Coburn is congratulated by silver medalist and compatriot Courtney Frerichs as Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi (bronze) looks on after the Women’s 3000m steeplechase final on Friday [AP]

America’s Emma Coburn, the Olympic bronze medalist, pulled a fast one on defending champion Hyvin Kiyeng to sneak away with women’s 3,000m steeplechase crown at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London, on Friday night.

Kiyeng, a glowing alumni of Sing’ore Girls High School in Elgeyo Marakwet, could not take on the American's high pace.

She said: “I am very happy to win the bronze medal. The Americans went very fast, as you saw with the championship record. I did all I could to win that race but they were stronger.

“I tried to stay at the front but they had too much over the last water jump. They had a good race. I tried to react, but I could not hang on but I’m pleased to win a medal.”

Coburn’s winning time of 9:02.58 was a championship record.

Courtney Frerichs, who collapsed to the track with her compatriot in the wake of a totally unexpected performance, ran a personal best of 9:03.77 for silver with Kiyeng clocking 9:04.03.

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Bahrain’s Olympic champion and world record holder Ruth Jebet appeared to be twisting the screw on the field over the final few laps, but after leading through the bell, she was the first of the five remaining medal contenders to be dropped in the back straight, finishing in 9:13.96, one place behind Beatrice Chepkoech, who clocked 9:10.45.

Kenya’s prodigious 18-year-old Celliphine Chespol, who set the second best ever time of 8:58.78 in Eugene earlier this year, was dropped from the leading group with two laps remaining, eventually taking sixth place in 9:15.04.

It meant USA earned the first ever global women’s 3000m steeplechase title after the tumultuous and historic final here.

But the final will be remembered down the years for the extraordinary occurrence as the field approached the water jump for the first time and the early leader Chepkoech, perhaps receiving a nudge in the back, ran wide, before doubling back, aghast, to clear the barrier and — extraordinarily — moving back to the leading bunch, eventually finishing just one place outside the medals. Considering the Kenyan had run around 3030m at least, it was quite an effort.

As the field approached the water jump for the second time several runners hit the deck, although all picked themselves up and carried on.

The drama continued all the way to the line.

“I’m so grateful to the support from all the people here,” said Coburn in the immediate aftermath of her bold run.