Former champion Kemboi bids farewell to steeplechase
LONDON — Kenya’s fourtime world champion Ezekiel Kemboi said Tuesday’s final that saw him finish 11th would be his last outing in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Although he has previously backtracked on declarations to quit the event that he has dominated for more than a decade, Kemboi, 35, said he means it this time.
“This was my last steeplechase race. You will never see me run the race again,” said the man who had won the previous four world titles and finished second in the three before that.
“I am launching my road race career in two weeks with a 10km road race, a half marathon in December and a full marathon in April next year,” he said.
Kemboi was in contention until the final lap but could not respond when compatriot and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto accelerated and went on to win in 8:14.12.
Morocco’s Soufiane Elbakkali took silver and American Evan Jager bronze as Kemboi went backwards and recorded his worst finish in a major steeplechase.
“I am not disappointed. Contrary to many peoples’ opinion, I am happy to be here in London for my eighth world championships,” he said.
Not many athletes are blessed with such staying power. Kipruto was less than 10 years old when he won his first steeplechase.
Although Kipruto’s victory maintained Kenya’s astonishing dominance of the grueling event, he said it was not guaranteed to continue.
“You can no longer say this is a Kenyan race. Probably we will need new coaching techniques and tactics, we need to modify our coaching to return to where we were,” he said.
Kemboi won his first major medal at the 2002 Common- wealth Games, where he took silver, and went on to take Olympic gold in 2004 and 2012.
He was a silver medalist at the Beijing worlds two years ago and Olympic champion in Rio last year. He briefly took the lead with less than 300 meters remaining on Tuesday, but was unable to hold it as rivals surged past.
Kenya has now won 12 out of the 15 editions of the race in world championships history.
“I’m happy to be world champion. Last year I became Olympic champion and this year to be world champion was my hope,” Kipruto told reporters.
“I used my plans well and last night for morale I told myself: ‘I am Olympic champion and that others must break me’. I knew if the race was around 8:10 that I was going to win.”