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Why Kenyan trio may not win 3000m steeplechase tomorrow

ATHLETICS By Stephen Rutto | July 29th 2021
(L-R) Bronze medallist Kenya's Amos Kirui, gold medallist Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto and silver medallist Kenya's Abraham Kibiwott celebrate after the athletics men's 3000m steeplechase final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 13, 2018. [AFP PHOTO]

At 3am tomorrow, the men’s 3000m steeplechase - a race that has been dominated by Kenyans for 37 years, will take place at the Tokyo Olympics.

Kenyan men have won the Olympic steeplechase gold medals since 1984.

With the absence of defending champion Conseslus Kipruto who did not complete the race during the national trials in June, extension of Kenya’s winning streaks will be on Leonard Bett, Abraham Kibiwot, and Benjamin Kigen who took the top three slots respectively.

But a tough challenge awaits the Kenyan squad in Tokyo as African countries field steeplechasers with decorated resumes in the distance.

From Lamecha Girma and Getnet Wale of Ethiopia to Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali, Kenya’s stranglehold in 3000m steeplechase will be put to test.

Winner of the national trials, former Africa champion Abraham Kibiwott, is seen as the Conseslus Kipruto’s successor. He trains with Conseslus in Mosoriot, Nandi County.

Kibiwot, 25, has proved that he is ready to defend Kenyan dominance at the Olympics given his performance at the senior ranks.

He won bronze at the African championships in 2016, silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 before coming in seventh at World championships in 2019.

On the other hand, Kigen, 28, takes to the start line his monstrous kicks. He is seen as the biggest threat for gold.

Kigen, who won the Rome Diamond League in 2019, in a time of 8:06.13 can’t be wished away.

He has previously beaten El Bakkali and Conseslus at the Diamond Leagues. Back in 2018, he outclassed Kipruto to take Prefontaine Classic before beating El Bakkali on home soil to win in Rabat.

He has also shown incredible speed with a 3:31 1500 pb in Doha in May, won the only major steeple of 2020 in Monaco, and won his only steeple of 2021 in comfortable fashion, clocking 8:08 in Florence on June 10.

Although Leonard Bett, 20, is yet to show the world what he is made of, three-year-old career is rich in spectacular wins.

August 14, 2016 shows Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong raising her arms in victory as she crosses the finish line of the Women's Marathon during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Sambodromo in Rio de Janeir AFP

Bett won the national trials but was beaten in Gateshead, his only Diamond League of the year, finishing second to American Hillary Bor.

When Bett was just a 16-year-old in 2017, he won the World U18 title in Nairobi.

A year later, when he was 17-year-old, he ran away with a silver medal at the World Under20 championships before winning the 2019 Africa junior title as an 18-year-old.

Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali is of the Olympic steeple favorites. He has recorded impressive performances in recent years.

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