News06 Aug 2012

Marathon becomes the focus for Kemboi after second Olympic Steeplechase gold


Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's 3000m Steeplechase Final on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 5 August 2012 (© Getty Images)

London, UKOnce he will finish his career Ezekiel Kemboi could well become a comedian. That was the suggestion made by the moderator of the medal winners’ press conference after leading through roughly 15 minutes of questions and answers.

Quite some of that had indeed comedy quality when the Olympic Steeplechase champion spoke. After he had put on a show in the stadium, taking the gold medal with a time of 8:18.56 from France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (8:19.08) and fellow-Kenyan Abel Mutai (8:19.73), Kemboi continued doing so after he had left the track.

The Kenyans had left it late with their attack in the 3000m Steeplechase final. And it was only in the final lap when Ezekiel Kemboi made a real move. Coming into the home straight he was well in front and after clearing the final barrier he started the show by not running straight to the finish line. Instead he crossed over and finally finished in lane eight – he had done the same a year ago, when he became World Champion in Daegu for a second time.

It was not clear if Kemboi was aware that France’s Mekhissi-Benabbad was closing the gap significantly and when asked about this he did not answer the question during the press conference.

Instead he started listing all his international medals, starting from 2001 as a junior right to his second Olympic Steeplechase title in London (he had already won this gold medal in Athens in 2004).

After that speech he finally concluded: "Finishing in lane eight indicates that I will move up to the marathon!"

He had talked about the marathon already in the past. But on Sunday it sounded more like just another joke. And Ezekiel Kemboi admitted: "I will have to consult my coach first."

The coach is former Steeplechase World record holder and Kenyan legend Moses Kiptanui. He may well tell his athlete to stop crossing lanes in future and instead start the show after the finish lane.

When he had finally secured Olympic gold in London the 30-year-old started dancing, much to the delight of the spectators.

"I had done that in similar style in Daegu a year ago and then I got the nick-name, Mini Bolt’," recalled Kemboi and added: "My dancing show is a bit different to his – it is mini."

So in some ways Kemboi was a sort of pre-programme for the big show: Usain Bolt. That refers even to the press conference, where Ezekiel Kemboi was impressed by the packed conference room and thanked the journalists for coming – probably not knowing that most of them were actually waiting for Usain Bolt!

"I know Usain and when I met him in the Olympic village I wished him the best of luck," said Kemboi, who was also asked about his haircut that was different to the one he sported in the qualifying round on Saturday.

He had only left a circle of hair on his head and shaved the rest. "The round haircut is the sign of the gold medal," said Ezekiel Kemboi. "I shaved my hair for the first time in 2009 and then won the gold medal in the World Championships. Then I did it again last year and won again. I am developing my own pattern. Whenever I shave my hair my opponents must know that something special will come from me."

During his career Ezekiel has done a number of special things. In London he became only the second Steeplechaser in Olympic history to take a second gold in this event. The only other one was Finland’s Volmari Iso-Hollo, who had won back in 1932 and 1936.

Not only because of his funny character Ezekiel Kemboi is not the common Kenyan distance runner. There was no need for him to run to school, which forms a basis for many runners from Kenya.

The former DJ at school parties played football and then only started running after he had left school. When he won a race Paul Ereng, the Olympic 800 m Champion from 1988, approached him and became his first coach.

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF
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