U.S. stuns Kenya in steeplechase
Historic 1-2 finish for women adds to the growing list of surprises
LONDON — Rolling on the ground, still gasping for breath, Courtney Frerichs hugged Emma Coburn and shouted into her ear: “Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?”
Nope. That really happened.
The two Americans outran two Kenyans to the finishlineFridayandendedup 1-2 in the steeplechase at the world championships for the latest improbable — in this case, impossible? — triumphs for a stable of U.S. long-distance runners who keep getting stronger.
A record-setting race Coburn finished in an American-record time of 9 minutes, 2.58 seconds, while Frerichs set a personal best at 9:03.77. These marked the first two steeplechase medals for U.S. women since the event began at the world championships in 2005. It marked the first time Americans have finished 1-2 in a women’s or men’s steeplechase at the worlds or the Olympics.
These were the fourth and fifth medals for the U.S. distance runners at the championships in London.
None were more shocking than this.
In Friday’s race, the field got a break early when one of the world’s best — Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya — missed the turn for the water jump on the inside of the track and had to go back, costing her precious energy.
Coburn and Frerichs raced near the front the entire way.
“I was just waiting for the Africans to pass me and surge to overtake me,” Coburn said. Only it never happened. The final sprint came down to the two Americans and two Kenyans — Chepkoech and Hyvin Jepkemoi.
In the past, there was no doubt who would win that sort of showdown. This time, the U.S. runners came out on top, while Jepkemoi took bronze and Chepkoech finished fourth.
Coburn and Frerichs made history — and could barely believe it themselves.
“I was just in complete shock,” Frerichs said. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘Did this just really happen?’ ”
Dafne Schippers proved again she is the fastest woman over 200 meters at the world championships, finishing just ahead of Marie-Josee Ta Lou to defend her title in 20.05 seconds.
“I really had to fight for it today,” Schippers said. “It is not an easy life but it can be beautiful.”
Another crazy incident came in the women’s long jump. Ivana Spanovic appeared to have produced a medal-winning leap on her final attempt, but she was given a much shorter mark — seemingly because the number bib on her back dragged into the sand and likely cost her precious centimeters.
Without that jump, Brittney Reese added a world title to the Olympic gold she won in the same stadium five years ago.
Darya Klishina of Russia, competing as a neutral athlete because of her country’s doping suspension, took silver, and defending champion Tianna Bartoletta added yet another American medal with bronze.
Courtney Frerichs, back right, is overcome with emotion as she finishes second to U.S. teammate Emma Coburn in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.