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Ezekiel Kemboi Wins His Third Global Title - Is He The Greatest Championships Steepler Ever?

By LetsRun.com
September 1, 2011
Daegu, South Korea

Ezekiel Kemboi destroyed the field the final 200m to win his third global steeplechase title (2004 Olympics, 2009 Worlds, 2011 Worlds).

Kemboi was so good over the final 200m that he had time to veer out and finish the race in lane 7 and then strike a "mini Bolt" celebratory pose before the silver medal was settled behind him. In the end, Kemboi's teammate, 2011 World leader Brimin Kipruto, held off France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad for silver.

Ezekiel Kemboi's Mini Bolt

More Ezekiel Kemboi
Photos Here from Yahoo

The night, however, belonged to Kemboi and he was ready to celebrate. He ripped off his jersey, struck up bodybuilding poses, threw his jersey into the crowd, and ran around the track with the Kenyan flag wrapped around his waist with his shirt off. We can't believe we forgot how entertaining he was when he won in 2009 (here and here).

Recap, analysis and reaction below.

Fast (2009) Or Slow (2011) Ezekiel Kemboi Is Your Champion
Unlike the 2009 Worlds, which Kemboi won in a blistering 8:00.43 and 8:01.26 did not medal, this years race was much more modest. The winner, however, was the same.

South Africa's Ruben Ramolefi led the field for much of the early part of the race, as the first kilometer was reached in a modest 2:47.63 (8:22 pace). He stayed in front until three laps to go when the Ugandan pair, Jacob Araptany and Benjamin Kiplagat went to the front and began pushing the pace. They led through 2km in 5:33.42.

The injection of pace started to thin out the field a little, but there were 11 guys within ten meters of the leader (Araptany) at the bell (7:13.27). Araptany led and all the people with global medals in the race were right behind him (Kemboi, Kipruto, Mekhissi-Benabbad, Richard Mateelong and Bob Tahri). Araptany maintained the lead until the barrier just before the 200m mark, where Kemboi struck.

After going over the barrier, Kemboi accelerated like a rocket as he approached the water jump. Only the reigning Olympic champ Kipruto could give chase but by the time he hit the water jump he already and had at least a 5 meter lead and Kemboi was going so fast that when he vaulted off the barrier he landed totally outside the water, whereas Kipruto chose to not touch the barrier hurdle it.

Once Kemboi hit dry land, he accelerated again and his lead increased to 6 meters, 7 meters, 8 meters.

Unless he had trouble over the final barrier, this race was over. Kemboi had no trouble and he knew the race was his. Now, all that remained was the celebration. Kemboi was in lane two and then he angled out into lane 3. By the time he hit lane 4, he had his right hand in the air and was fist pumping. He continued that into lane 5, 6, and then hit the finish in lane 7. We've never seen anything like it. Just across the finish line, he stopped and did a cool little fist pump a coupe of times (aka the mini Bolt). In many ways, it looked like he was pumping a shotgun.

Oh yeah, second place had not crossed the line yet. Kemboi had only taken the lead before the 200 m mark and he was celebrating before second place got anywhere near the line.

Behind Kemboi, Kipruto was firmly in second place. However, with the win out of reach, he appeared to be coasting to the line looking back to see if any was approaching from behind. Mekhissi-Benabbad had found another gear and was gaining but Kipruto saw Mekhissi-Benabbad about fifteen meters before the line and tried to accelerate to hold him off. At the same time, Kipruto veered out into lane two to force Mekhissi-Benabbad wide. Kipruto held him off by .04 to get silver.

After the race, the French would protest Kipruto making Mekhissi-Benabbad go wide, but it was denied and the medals stood. At the post-race press conference, Mekhissi-Benabbad said he did not object to Kipruto's move because this was a game and Kipruto was just trying to win.

As Bouabdellah Tahri came in fourth and Roba Gari of Ethiopia in fifth, Kemboi's celebration was getting on in full swing. The guy is fun to watch. We've got the race video below cued to start and show you the last lap and then Kemboi's celebration. Worth a few minutes of your time for sure.

The Final Lap And The Celebration

Post Race Comments From The Medallists And Kemboi: It's About "The Style"
Kemboi is one of the more entertaining guys on the circuit. His post-race comments perhaps were not as interesting as in 2009 when he held court on why Jamaicans are good at the sprints, and Kenyans the steeplechase. But he was entertaining. In 2009, Kemboi had a Nike swoosh put in his haircut, this year he had a short mohawk. He said when he shaves his head he runs well so he continued the tradition. Despite the bravado, Kemboi has a lot of respect for the French runners and he challenged Mekhissi-Benabbad to try and win gold in 2012. He said,  "I want the French guys to try to win next year the gold medal in the Olympics."

As for finishing in lane 7, he said it was all about style points, "I just wanted everything today to be style. I've finished in lane 1 and lane 2, but I wanted everything today to be better style."

Kemboi The Greatest Championship Steepler Ever?
QT: Ezekiel Kemboi now is arguably the greatest championships steepler ever. He has more World/Olympic medals (6) than anyone else. He also has the most golds (3 with one Olympic gold while Moses Kiptanui has 3 Worlds Golds). Kemboi will have to run faster to be considered the greatest steepler of all time because despite all his accomplishments he has only broken 8 minutes 2 times.

QT2 Paul Koech Update: We talked to a media person with the Kenyan Athletics federation. Our question we had basically was whether the Kenyan Athletics bosses just did not like Paul Koech. The guy we talked to said the thinking was Koech had been given wild cards in the past and not done that well, so the federation decided to send the top 3 at the Kenyan Trials to Worlds (which meant putting an 8:19 steepler on the team). We looked up Koech's stats at Worlds and the Olympics. Bronze, 7th, and 4th. Way better than an 8:19 steepler. Also bear in mind that when Koech got 4th in 2009, he ran 8:02 in the steeple in the greatest championships steeple ever run and led nearly the entire race. Kemboi said in Zürich he hopes to lower his personal best and to run 7:54 or 7:55. Considering the world record is 7:53.63, we'd love to see someone get that. And if it's not going to be Kemboi, we hope it's Koech, although Brimin Kipruto, who missed the record by .01 earlier this year, probably has something to say about that. Kipruto, while thankful for his silver, was the one guy on the medal stand disappointed with the color of his medal.

Ezekiel Kemboi Holding Court In The Mixed Zone

Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto And Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad Press Conference
(We recommend the 10 minute mark and the last minute if you're short for time)

   

More Steeple Post-Race Interviews: *Brimin Kipruto After Silver Medal At 2011 World Championships Steeplechase
*Benjamin Kiplagat After 2011 Worlds Steeplechase Final
*Ruben Ramolefi After 2011 Worlds Steeplechase Final

Results:

1 642 Ezekiel Kemboi KEN 8:14.85
2 647 Brimin Kiprop Kipruto KEN 8:16.05
3 415 Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad FRA 8:16.09
4 421 Bouabdellah Tahri FRA 8:17.56
5 369 Roba Gari ETH 8:18.37
6 1029 Jacob Araptany UGA 8:18.67
7 659 Richard Kipkemboi Mateelong KEN 8:19.31
8 755 Ion Luchianov MDA 8:19.69 (SB)
9 745 Hamid Ezzine MAR 8:21.97
10 1033 Benjamin Kiplagat UGA 8:22.21
11 378 Nahom Mesfin ETH 8:25.39
12 425 Vincent Zouaoui-Dandrieux FRA 8:30.39
13 897 Ruben Ramolefi RSA 8:30.47
14 641 Abraham Kipkirong Chirchir KEN 8:33.56
15 860 Alberto Paulo POR 8:33.84

 

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