Kenyan 3,000m steeplechase dominance faces tough test in Oregon show

A Kenya team member takes a picture of teammates Leonard Bett, (left) Conseslus Kipruto (centre) and Abraham Kibiwotin Oregon on Thursday. [AP]

Defending champion Conseslus Kipruto will shoulder Kenya’s hope of protecting men’s 3,000m steeplechase turf at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, tomorrow at 5:20am.

Kipruto, two-time world champion, will marshal forces with Commonwealth Games silver medalist Abraham Kibiwott and 2018 World Under 20 silver medalist Leonard Bett in bid to stop Morocco’s Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali and silver medalist Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia.

Kenyan men have won 12 world titles, only missing out in four editions. That was in 1983 Helsinki, 1987 Rome, 2003 Saint-Denis and 2005 Helsinki, where Kenyan-born Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar won. He holds the men’s world record in the event.

Ezekiel Kemboi won four world titles (2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015) while Moses Kiptanui wore three crowns in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Kemboi has two Olympic titles while Kiptanui basks in a silver medal from the 1996 Olympics.

Kenya recorded three podium sweeps in 1997, 2007 and 2015 as well as striking the 12th gold medal in 2019 in the history of the World Athletics Championships.

Kipruto’s composure in yesterday’s qualifying round ignited a river of hope among Kenyans as he settled for 8:20.12, finishing second behind Girma who returned 8:19.64. America’s Hillary Bor finished third in 8:20.18.

Bett (8:16.94) and Kibiwott (8:17.04) finished second and third respectively in heat one that featured Bakkali who won in 8:16.65 with Ethiopia’s Getne Wale finishing fourth in 8:17.49.

Before Tokyo Olympic Games, Kenya had won nine straight Olympic gold medals in the water and barriers race. 

The three Kenyans have a mountain to climb as they seek to reclaim the Kenyan traditional race.

It’s a tough duel given there has been a steady invasion from Americans, French, Ethiopians and Moroccans in the event often billed as a race ‘Made in Kenya for Kenyans.’

Kenyan men squad in defending champion Conseslus Kipruto, Commonwealth Games silver medalist Abraham Kibiwott, Olympic bronze medalist Benjamin Kigen and Olympian Leornard Bett will be seeking to dethrone Morocco’s Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali and Ethiopia’s silver medalist Lamecha Girma, who ended Kenya’s 52 years of dominance in the race at the Tokyo Olympic Games. There is also America’s 2016 Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager.

But a closer look at the 2022 best times gives El Bakkali, Girma and Hailemariyam Tegegn, another Ethiopian, a leg up in the quest for glory.

Bakkali basks in an impressive 7:58.28 best mark set at the Diamond League meeting Rabat, where he beat Girma (7:58.68). Tegegn boasts of 8:06.29 while Kibiwott has 8:06.73.

Kipruto is on the comeback trail and there would be a nerve wrecking battle similar to the 2019 World Championships in Doha, where Kipruto beat Girma by the thickness of vest.

Bakkali and Girma announced their bid for honours this season as they led 1-2 respectively at the Diamond League meetings in Doha and Rabat.

But Kenyans have vowed to upset the form book. Kipruto said: “We have a strong team. We will beat Bakkali and I am sure of that. Kenyans should not worry at all. I am prepared to represent the nation and bring back our 3,000m steeplechase glory. It is great to be back to form.

Kipruto ran 8:32 to finish fifth at the national championships but he has made impressive strides so far, having posted 8:12 in Rabat and 8:08 in Rome Diamond League meetings. He finished third at the national trials last month.

Kenyan men have won 12 world titles, only missing out in four editions. That was in 1983 Helsinki, 1987 Rome, 2003 Saint-Denis and 2005 Helsinki, where Kenyan-born Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar won. He holds the men’s world record in the event.

Ezekiel Kemboi won four world titles (2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015) while Moses Kiptanui wore three crowns in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Kemboi has two Olympic titles. 

Kenya recorded three podium sweeps in 1997, 2007 and 2015 as well as striking the 12th gold medal in 2019 in the history of World Athletics Championships.

 

 

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