Jairus Birech on his way to victory in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF Continental Cup, Marrakech 2014 (© Getty Images)
World leader and Diamond Race winner Jairus Birech finished off his stellar steeplechase season with another victory in the stadium where he won at the African Championships last month, clocking 8:13.18 to finish ahead of USA’s Evan Jager.
After a topsy-turvy race, it was Jager who led from his African rival coming into the final straight, but the North American record-holder couldn’t hold on to his advantage and had to settle for second in 8:14.08, the first American top-three finisher in this event since Henry Marsh finished second in 1985.
Qatari athlete Abubaker Ali Kamal was third for Asia-Pacific in 8:17.27 while Birech’s team-mate Chala Belo ran a personal best of 8:24.45 for fourth.
Birech has been in brilliant form of late, moving to 10th on the all-time list in Brussels just last Friday with a time that put him in the exclusive sub-eight-minute club.
Nothing so swift was needed tonight, however, as the 21-year-old notched up his ninth win of the year and Africa’s eighth in this event.
In contrast to the women’s race, the men set off at a good pace, Birech sprinting to the front to take them round the first lap with the tall, head-banded Jager on his shoulder.
The 21-year-old seemed determined to make this an honest race, kicking again as he went through 1000m in 2:44.46. He soon slowed again, though and a gap of some 15 metres was quickly closed by Jager and Kamal.
Jager took the lead with three-and-a-half laps to go before Kamal took it on, Birech briefly drifting back to fourth before forging ahead again with two laps left.
Jager stuck to his heels with Kamal a stride behind and the American took the initiative at the bell again and streaked down the back straight, but Birech wasn’t beaten and passed the American 80m from the line which he crossed with arms outstretched, another job well done.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF