End of Kenya’s steeplechase dominance rattles citizens

Friday, August 6th, 2021 00:00 | By
Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng competes in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. Photo/AFP

Nairobi, Thursday

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics marked a watershed for Kenya as a dominant force in the 3,000m steeplechase, an event the country has dominated at the Summer Games for more than four decades.

Morocco’s Soufiane el-Bakkali on Monday won gold in the men’s event to become only the third non-Kenyan Olympics champion since the 1968 Games in Mexico City, winning in 8:08.90.

Two days later, it was the turn of Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai to produce one of the shocks of Tokyo 2020 when she became the first female Olympic champion from that nation when she took the honors in the corresponding women’s event in 9:01.45.

In both races, Benjamin Kigen (8:11.45) and Hyvin Kiyeng (9:05:39) came home for the bronze in the men’s and women’s finals in that order.

The inquest into the end of an era in the steeplechase for Kenya has raged on social media this week with most calling for an overhaul in talent spotting to reclaim the country’s place. “

All the conversations about Kenya having its worst Olympics and all the scolding of the Kenyan athletes by most Kenyans is a little premature.

The only race whose conversation is ripe is the steeplechase men’s race, I hope most Kenyan athletes in Tokyo are staying off Social Media,” Kenyan reporter for the BBC, Lynne Wachira wrote on her Twitter handle in summing the collective mood in the nation.

Leading figures in the discipline such as three-time world steeplechase champion and Barcelona 1992 Olympics silver winner, Moses Kiptanui, have hinted at coming out of retirement to coach future champions at the event.

Kenya had won nine straight Olympic golds in the 3,000m steeplechase since 1980.

Conseslus Kipruto, the leading star of the steeplechase, didn’t defend his Olympic title in Tokyo after failing to make the Kenyan team at the national trials amid a criminal case where he is out on bail on charges of defiling a minor.  - Xinhua

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