Defending champion Conseslus Kipruto on Friday staged one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the World Championships, rallying from behind to beat Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma in a photo-finish on his way to retaining the men’s 3000 metres steeplechase gold at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
Kipruto won in a world leading time of 8 minutes and 01.35 seconds, followed by Girma in 8:01.36. The 2014 African champion Soufiane El Bakkali from Morocco, who also finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games, timed 8:03.76 to take the bronze medal.
The other Kenyans in the race, 2019 African Games champion Benjamin Kigen (8:06.95), Abraham Kibiwot (8:06.95), and World Under-20 silver-medalist Leonard Kipkemoi Bett (8:10.64) wound up sixth, seventh, and ninth respectively.
Kipruto literally chased down the little-known Girma to the finish line before upstaging the 18-year-old in a photo finish.
Afterwards, Kipruto said the sight of many Kenyans inside Khalifa Stadium energised and propelled him to the title when he seemed to be falling behind Girma.
“When I heard Kenyans singing and cheering us up in the stadium, I suddenly got the energy to chase Girma to the finish line. I said I was not going to let them down. They gave me the motivation and I dedicate the gold medal to the fans,” Kipruto, who won by a hundredth of a second, told Nation Sport in Doha.
“It was a very close race. The Ethiopians (Girma and Getnet Wale) knew I would kick early in the race and teamed up to stop me,” he said.
Kipruto disclosed that he had planned to start from the front and control the race for his Kenyan teammates but the Ethiopians scuttled the plan.
“I went to the front and waited to kick but they also changed tack and went to the front. Then I decided to keep up with them at that quick rather than fall behind and wait for the other Kenyans because I had looked back to signal to them to charge forward but they were way behind,” Kipruto said.
Kipruto said the race proved faster than he had anticipated, forcing him to change tack going into the last lap.
Kigen said the pace proved too fast. “The pace was too quick for a championship, which is interesting. The Ethiopians opted to sacrifice Chala Beyo by asking him to set a very quick pace. I thank God for reaching the final and putting great effort here,” Kigen, who will compete in the World Military Games in China before shifting focus to the 2020 Olympics, said.
The 2016 Olympic Games champion who had been lurking behind Girma heading to the last water jump, charged forward at the final hurdle and pushed Girman to the finish line to retain his title.
So close was the race that moments after finishing the race, Girma and Kipruto anxiously watched the giant screen inside the stadium as they waited to learn their fate. Kipruto said he will now shift focus to the Olympics.
Kigen said the pace of the race proved too fast.
“The pace was too quick for a championship, which is interesting. The Ethiopians opted to sacrifice Chala Beyo by asking him to set a very quick pace. I thank God for reaching the final and putting great effort here,” Kigen, who will compete in the World Military Games in China before shifting focus to the 2020 Olympics, said.
Source: Daily Nation