Where Your Dreams Become Reality
LetsRun.com's 2009 IAAF Berlin World Championships Preview
Men's Steeplechase - Can Frenchman Spoil Kenyan Party?
The men's steeplechase will likely look very similar to the 2007 World Championships steeplechase in Osaka. A fast pace will be set, leaving 6-8 competitors within striking distance of a medal with 400m to go. In 2007, as you can watch to the right, Kenya swept the top 3 spots with 2009 entrants Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto and Richard Mateelong.
As if returning that trio weren't enough, Kenya will also send perennial world time leader Paul Kipsiele Koech as their 4th entrant. Koech has had no trouble running a slew of races near or below the 8:00 barrier, but when it comes to the World Championships or Olympics, he has "only" managed one medal, a bronze in Athens in 2004. Amazingly, he wasn't even selected to the 2008 Kenyan Olympic squad despite posting the world's best time of the year. His Kenyan trials performance was that poor. This year, Koech was surprised to get the Kenyan wild-card after only finishing 6th in the most competitive steeplechase in the world: the Kenyan trials.
Will the Kenyans go 1-4 on the rest of the world? It's not the most unlikely scenario. However, we'd be surprised by even a 1-3 sweep by the Kenyans because a Frenchman by the name of Madiehine Mekhissi-Benabbad has the fitness and the closing speed to contend not only for a medal but also the win. He won Paris this year with a ridiculous finishing display that included ripping off his number. Who finished 2 seconds behind him? None other than 2004 Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi.
Further back was Swede Mustafa Mohamed, who clobbered his knee in his last steeplechase effort in front of the home crowd in Stockholm. Mohamed can post some fast times but can't seem to unleash a big kick when it counts. You are not likely to see him on the medal podium, or in the top 6 for that matter.
A nightmare scenario for the Kenyans would be to somehow miss out on the medals in what is historically their best event. We see not just one Frenchman, but two who could upset the Kenyans. Bouabdellah Tahri is a real threat. He ran a personal best 8:02 this year, moving him to #10 all-time in the world. Ethiopia will have some solid entrants including Yakob Jarso, 4th in the Beijing Olympic games steeple.
Other competitors of note include Bahrainian/Kenyan Tareq Mubarak Taher and excellent Finnish runner Jukka Keskisalo. Taher has been winning races this year by good margins and was a factor in the 2007 World Championships final. We wouldn't be surprised to see him near the medals.
Of the American contingent in Berlin, BYU grad Joshua McAdams is the most likely to make the final and place in the top 10. McAdams has excellent closing speed off of almost any pace. Dan Huling and Kyle Alcorn complete the squad, and would do well simply by advancing to the final.
Men's Steeplechase Statistics By LRC Coaching Guru John Kellogg
7:58.85 Ezekiel Kemboi (KEN) (#7 all-time) Gold medal in 2004 Olympic Games, silver medal in 2007 World Championships, silver medal in 2005 World Championships, silver medal in 2003 World Championships, gold medal in 2006 Commonwealth Games, silver medal in 2002 Commonwealth Games, 7th in 2008 Olympic Games