Steeplechase Heats: Evan Jager And Donn Cabral Don't Mess Around As The Olympic Champs From Kenya Make It Interesting
Jager & Cabral Both Make The Final, As Do The Top Seven Seeds
By LetsRun.com from London, UK
August 3, 2012
The distance action at the 2012 London Olympics began well for US fans, as the top two Americans from the Trials, Evan Jager and Donn Cabral, both qualified for the final.
There really weren't any major surprises or casualties in the steeple prelims, as all of the major players advanced to the final, including the top seven seeds from 2012, but that doesn't mean the races weren't without drama. 2008 Olympic champ Brimin Kipruto made a move that might have got him DQed and 2004 Olympic champ Ezekiel Kemboi really livened thigns up by running dead last for a few laps. Heat descriptions and more quick takes below.
Quick Take (QT) #1: Two American steeplechase finalists may seem like a big surprise, but Cabral was actually seeded 16th coming in and they take 15 to the final. The only guys seeded in the to 15 who didn't advance were Uganda's Jacob Araptany (#8 at 8:14.48 SB), Spain's Victor Garcia (#9 at 8:15.20 SB) and Spain's Angel Mullera (#12 at 8:17.91). The three not ranked in the top 15 who did advance were Cabral (#16 at 8:19.14 SB), Ethiopia's Nahom Mesfin (#17 at 8:20.23 SB) and Turkey's Tarik Langat Akdag (#32 at 8:27.31 SB, but the former Kenyan has a PR of 8:08.59).
We and many weren't sad to see Mullera go. He was the guy who was originally banned from the Olympics for an EPO/HGH email, but then reinstated when it was said it couldn't be proven the email was authentic.
QT #2: The good news for US fans is Cabral is only 22 and Jager 23.
QT #3: When was the last time two Americans made the steeple final? 1996 when Mark Croghan (5th) and Marc Davis (12th) made it. Back then, only twelve made it so it was a bit harder (15 started making the final in 2000 from what we can tell).
Heat 1 - Jager Looks Great - What About Mutai?
Evan Jager didn't run like a rookie Olympian. He was middle of the pack at the beginning but gradually moved up in what was the fastest of the three heats. With two laps remaining, he had the lead and never was pressed over the final lap as the runners sought the four auto qualifying spots. Jager and France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who won silver in 2008 and bronze in 2011, ended up clear of everyone else. Kenya's third qualifier Abel Mutai ended up third here.
Afterwards Jager said, "The US record in Monaco was a huge confidence boost. It showed me that I can run at the front of the pack." As for the final he said, "I'm going to go into the next round (final) open-minded."
Mekhissi-Benabbad said he has been doing altitude training and added, "I have won this battle, but not yet the war. The war is Sunday."
QT #1: As good as Jager looked, the bad news for American fans was the lightly raced Mekhissi-Benabbad looked good as well. Anyone hoping the Frenchman was going to be off his game was likely disappointed.
QT #2: Did Mutai look like he was struggling to you? It was kind of hard to tell if he was taking it easy or struggling.
More: MB: *Jagers heat starting 8 am est *How comfortable does Jager look?? *How Awesome Did Jager Look? I Mean C'Mon *Jager and Cabral good for the sport - both good looking and should get some mainstream attention *Mekhissi Benabbad pulled a Bumbalough to beat Jager. Stupid waste of energy.
|1||1762||Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad||FRA||8:16.23 Q||.|
|2||3223||Evan Jager||USA||8:16.61 Q||.|
|3||2314||Abel Kiprop Mutai||KEN||8:17.70 Q||.|
|4||3071||Tarik Langat Akdag||TUR||8:17.85 Q||(SB)|
|5||1691||Nahom Mesfin||ETH||8:18.16 q||(SB)|
|6||3111||Benjamin Kiplagat||UGA||8:18.44 q||.|
|7||3064||Amor Ben Yahia||TUN||8:22.70||(PR)|
|9||2368||Ali Ahmed Al-Amri||KSA||8:26.22||(SB)|
|2,000m||3071||Tarik Langat Akdag||TUR||5:31.50|
Heat 2 - Kipruto Ends Up Winning After A Scare
Reigning Olympic champ Brimin Kipruto got the win in heat two but he made it interesting by not staying up front and out of trouble throughout. The heat was slow and coming into the next to last water jump, Kipruto passed some runners on the inside and got squeezed a bit. It looked like he took one step on the inside of the track. The US's Kyle Alcorn finished well back in 9th.
Aftewards, Kipruto said there were no problems in this race, saying, "It was a good race. Everything went according to plan but anything can happen in the final." As for the final, he said, "We (the Kenyans) will run together until the last lap and then we'll try to beat each other. Then I will try my best." When asked about his non-Kenyan challengers, he said, "There are good athletes from France and Uganda."
QT #1: Kipruto advanced with ease but his tactics weren't very smart. All he's trying to do here is not get DQed or not fall.
|1||2303||Brimin Kiprop Kipruto||KEN||8:28.62 Q||.|
|2||2133||Yuri Floriani||ITA||8:29.01 Q||.|
|3||2463||Brahim Taleb||MAR||8:29.02 Q||.|
|4||1723||Jukka Keskisalo||FIN||8:29.13 Q||.|
Heat 3 - What The Hell Was Ezekiel Kemboi Doing?
The biggest question surrounding the steeple heading into the Olympics is the status of 2004 Olympic and 2009 and 2011 World Champ Ezekiel Kemboi, who hadn't raced since the Kenyan Trials given he was arrested after allegedly stabbing a woman.
The questions about Kemboi's preparedness shot way, way up early in this race, as on the second lap, he was in last place more than 4 seconds behind. What the hell was going on? Was he hurt? Had he fallen? The answer was no.
Replays showed Kemboi just went out in last and then moved up throughout and qualified with ease. Maybe he wanted to get a tougher workout, maybe he wanted to seemingly make a mockery of the race, maybe he wanted to entertain the fans by putting a scare in them, maybe he wanted to boost LetsRun.com's traffic as like five message board threads popped up saying he was done. Who knows? All we know is by the time the runners came to the finishing straight, Kemboi was well clear of the field and finishing out in lane 6 or 7 - just like he did at Worlds last year. Kemboi let up just before the line and ended up finishing in second but Kemboi seems ready for the final, at least physically.
With Kemboi screwing around, most of the work was done by Donn Cabral, who was up front running an honest race throughout. Cabral fell back to fifth on the homestretch but rallied back and grabbed the final auto qualifying spot - although it looks like he would have qualified anyway.
Afterwards, Cabral said, "International races get really crazy, there is a lot of pushing and shoving."
|1||1685||Roba Gari||ETH||8:20.68 Q||.|
|2||2297||Ezekiel Kemboi||KEN||8:20.97 Q||.|
|3||2455||Hamid Ezzine||MAR||8:21.25 Q||.|
|4||3208||Donald Cabral||USA||8:21.46 Q||.|
|5||2482||Ion Luchianov||MDA||8:22.09 q||(SB)|
|6||1006||Mohamed Khaled Belabbas||ALG||8:22.32||(SB)|
Note: All quotes above are from the IOC. LRC's Weldon Johnson will be in the mixed zone starting with this evening's session.
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