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World Athletics Championships Oregon22

Previews09 Aug 2016

Preview: men's 3000m steeplechase – Rio 2016 Olympic Games


Ezekiel Kemboi in the 3000m steeplechase at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)

It has been 36 years since the 3000m steeplechase gold medallist came from a country other than Kenya, a streak that's unlikely to end in Rio.

Eight consecutive gold medals have since gone to Kenya and, in that time, they have swept the medals twice: in 1992 and 2004.

Starting in 1988, they have taken at least two of the three medals on offer at every Olympics. It is difficult to properly describe the import of this streak, but here’s one detail: of the top entrants, only Ezekiel Kemboi, the defending champion, was born in a world where a Kenyan was not the Olympic steeplechase champion as Kemboi was born in 1982 and was just two years old when the streak began.

With Kenya’s team including both Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto, who between them have won the past three gold medals, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is extremely likely to see the Kenyan streak extended to nine.

Kemboi and Kipruto both ran in Athens, Beijing and London, with Kipruto winning in Beijing and Kemboi taking the honours in Athens and London.

The latter has also won the past four world titles, meaning he hasn’t lost a global championship since Kipruto beat him at the 2008 Olympics, and he placed second at the three World Championships before that.

If his near-disastrous seventh place in 2008 is ignored, Kemboi has been first or second in every global championship race since 2003. His sly grin and celebratory dancing has become his post-race trademark.

Should Kemboi not extend the streak, the next most likely man to take the gold medal is world leader and 2012 world U20 champion Conseslus Kipruto, who has won all five IAAF Diamond League outings this year with a season’s best (and PB) of 8:00.12.

The trio of Kemboi, C Kipruto and B Kipruto finished in that order to sweep the medals last summer at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

As for who is most likely to break up the Kenyan trio, for the past two Games that has been silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France.

Mekhissi-Benabbad won the European title last month but, perhaps, a more likely spoiler is USA's Evan Jager who ran 8:00.45 in Paris last year despite falling at the final barrier. Jager took sixth in Beijing, the same place he finished at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Other men to watch include Qatar's John Koech and Jager’s teammate Donn Cabral, who set the pace for much of the race in London before finishing eighth there.

France’s 2014 European champion Yoann Kowal has been a contender in several major championship finals, and the Ethiopian team of Tafese Soboka, Chala Bayo and Hailemariyam Amare should produce at least one runner who will make the final.

Parker Morse for the IAAF

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