Olympic champion Soufiane El-Bakkali of Morocco produced a tactical masterclass to end Kenya’s 15-year reign in the 3000m steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon on Monday.
El-Bakkali took his time before surging into the lead with just under 200m to go at Eugene’s Hayward Field, with a lethal late kick after the final water jump powering him to gold in a time of 8min 25.13sec.
Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma — silver medallist behind El-Bakkali at last year’s Tokyo Olympics — was second in 8:26.01.
Kenya’s reigning world champion Conseslus Kipruto took bronze in 8:27.92.
El-Bakkali’s masterpiece was almost a carbon copy of last year’s Olympic final, when the Moroccan again conjured a devastating late kick in the final 200m to surge to gold.
El-Bakkali’s victory brought an end to Kenya’s 15-year dominance of the steeplechase at the world championships. Kenyan runners had won gold in the event in every edition of the championships since Brimin Kipruto’s gold in Osaka in 2007.
It was a happy return to Eugene for El-Bakkali, who got his first taste of international competition at Hayward Field in 2014 when he competed in the World Under-20 Championships.
“That was my first international experience. I return eight years later as a champion,” El-Bakkali said.
“The course was very tactical, slow,” he added. “I positioned well in the last lap. I am very strong in the 400m and it worked out for me.”—APP