Soufiane El Bakkali wins the steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
After claiming Olympic gold in Tokyo last year, Soufiane El Bakkali can now add the title of world champion to his resume.
Timing his kick to perfection in a slow, tactical race, the Moroccan surged to the lead around the final bend and accelerated down the straight to capture gold in the men’s 3000m steeplechase on Monday evening (18) at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
The victory gave the 26-year-old El Bakkali a complete set of World Championships medals, adding to the silver he won in London in 2017 and bronze in Doha in 2019.
“I am very happy to win my first world title after the Olympic gold,” he said. “The race was very difficult; it was very tactical and slow. I positioned myself well on the last lap. I am very strong in the 400m and it worked out for me.”
El Bakkali’s win in 8:25.13 – the slowest time in the history of the championships – snapped Kenya’s streak of seven consecutive world titles in the event, including Conseslus Kipruto’s run of two straight championships.
Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma won the silver for the second straight championships in 8:26.01, while Kipruto settled for the bronze this time in 8:27.92. It was the first time a Kenyan has finished out of the top two since 1991.
Kenya had dominated the event for so long, having won 13 of the past 15 titles. The only two previous times Kenya did not claim the title came in 2003 and 2005 when Saif Saaeed Shaheen, a Kenyan-born athlete running for Qatar, claimed the gold.
On a windy night at Hayward Field, El Bakkali extended his mastery over Girma, beating him for the seventh time in eight meetings. The race was similar to the Olympic final in Tokyo, where the Moroccan outkicked the Ethiopian on the final lap.
A potential disaster was fortunately averted on the opening lap. A camera operator, who was recording the women’s triple jump final on the infield, stepped on to the track on the home straight and, with his back to the runners, was completely oblivious to the 15 runners who were heading in his direction. Thankfully all of the finalists successfully navigated their way around him without incident.
El Bakkali bided his time in the pack as the lead exchanged hands, with Girma, Kipruto, Ethiopia’s Getnet Walle and Eritrea’s Yemane Haileselassie taking turns at the front. El Bakkali took off with just under 200 metres to go, blowing past the field and running away to the finish.
On his victory lap, El Bakkali took a celebratory plunge into the water jump.
It was only the Moroccan’s second trip to the United States, having competed here at the World U20 Championships in 2014.
“That was my first international experience,” said El Bakkali, who finished fourth on that occasion. “I return eight years later as a champion."
A disappointed Girma said he ran the wrong race.
“The pace was very slow today,” he said. “My tactic did not work and that cost me the gold. I was trying to change the tactic but the pace limited me very much. I will go for gold next year and my training is starting from now on.”
Wale finished fourth and Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot fifth in 8:28.68 and 8:28.95, respectively. Evan Jager of the US, a medallist at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, finished sixth in 8:29.08.
Steve Wilson for World Athletics
|MEN'S 3000m STEEPLECHASE MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Soufiane El Bakkali 🇲🇦 MAR||8:25.13|
|🥈||Lamecha Girma 🇪🇹 ETH||8:26.01|
|🥉||Conseslus Kipruto 🇰🇪 KEN||8:27.92|