2012 Men's Olympic Steeplechase: Ezekiel Kemboi Wins Second Olympic Steeplechase Title - Is He The Greatest Steeplechaser In History?

Evan Jager Finishes Sixth As Defending Champion Brimin Kipruto Goes Down In Fall

More: MB: *RE: Ezekiel Kemboi: SIT DOWN YANKS *RE: Kemboi lol *TODAY I STOOD UP FOR MY BOY EZEKIEL KEMBOI *RE: What can Ezekiel Kemboi run for 5k? 10? *Kemboi wins, Frog 2nd, Mutai 3rd, but Kipruto runs gutsiest race of all

By LetsRun.com
London, UK
August 5, 2012

Since 1968, the Olympic track and field action has had one constant. A Kenyan man has won the Olympic steeple title every time Kenya has showed up at the Olympics (they boycotted in 1976 and 1980).

That streak continued tonight London as Kenya won its tenth steeplechase title (eighth in a row) but one thing is drastically different. For the first time, Kenya has a two-time Olympic steeple champion.

Kemboi Finishing In Lane 8

In a replay of last year's World Championships, Ezekiel Kemboi absolutely crushed everyone on the last lap. Once again, Kemboi had time to finish out in lane eight, celebrating well before the finish line. And once again, after the finish line, Kemboi practiced his dance moves and took off his shirt.

The history books will forever show that Kemboi won this race by just over a half-second - .52 (8:18.56 to 8:19.09) - over France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who earned a second straight Olympic silver medal, but don't let that fool you. Kemboi was clearly the class of this field and way better than everyone else. Last year, he obliterated everyone over the final 200 in Daegu. This year, he went earlier, as he kicked with 300 to go and almost instantly the race was over. Barring a total or tie up or fall - this thing was over. There would be no tie up or fall and his lead was roughly a second a half before he stuttered a bit coming into the last barrier and before he started to celebrate early. Kenya's Abel Mutai earned his first global medal by finishing third in 8:23.87.

Admittedly, Kemboi didn't have to battle at the end as expected with defending Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto, as Kipruto had gone down in a fall with 700 remaining, but for anyone who watched the final 300 this year or 200 last year, there is seemingly little doubt as to who would have come out on top. Remember, at the Kenyan Trials this year, Kipruto only won when Kemboi pulled up next to him and let him take first place.

Coming into the race, many were hoping that the young 22-year-old American Evan Jager, who had the third-fastest time of anyone in the field in 2012, could medal. After Kipruto went down, American fans undoubtedly must have thought Jager’s chances for a medal were even higher than when the race started. But Jager couldn't match pace with the leading contenders when the battle for the medals was decided on the last lap. The American record holder ended up in sixth in 8:23.87 - still a nice accomplishment for someone running just the seventh steeple of their life. NCAA champion Donn Cabral was eighth in 8:25.90.

The Race
The race started slow and the two Americans weren’t afraid to go to the front. With five laps remaining, the Americans were up front as they’d take the field through its first four laps in about 4:35 (roughly 8:38 pace).

Just before three laps remained, it was third placer at the Kenyan Trials, Mutai, who started the real racing. He took the lead and really put an injection to the pace on the backstretch. Ethiopian national record holder Roba Gari, who’d end up fourth in 8:20.00, was the first person to follow the move and with 1000 to go, the order was Mutai, Gari, Kemboi, Kipruto, Jager and Cabral.

Heading into the penultimate lap, all of the major players were together until there was a fall with about 700 remaining. Who went down? None other than reigning Olympic champ Brimin Kipruto. Kipruto lost about 20 meters and fell back into 11th or 12th but he got back up very quickly and quickly worked his way back into contention. At the bell, he was sixth just just meters behind the top five who were tightly bunched. And heading into the last 200, he was in fifth just behind Mekhissi-Benabbad. But Kipruto had used up too much energy and was unable to make up any ground over the last 150 meters when the four guys behind Kemboi battled it out for silver and bronze.

Kipruto didn
't go down on a barrier. We've watched a race replay several times and the video shows he actually was simply running the turn and likely clipped from behind, probably by Mekhissi-Benabbad. Either that or he tripped himself.

See the picture below of him going down.

Up front at the bell after roughly a 65 penultimate last lap, the Ethiopian Gari made his bid for glory as the he was followed by the two Kenyans Kemboi and Mutai. Kemboi waited until 300 to strike and his strike was lethal as he covered the last lap in the 56-mid range (he probably had a 55 in him had he not slowed up). With 200 remaining, Mutai was in second, Gari third and Mekhissi-Benabbad fourth but Mekhissi-Benabbad would pass both Gari and Mutai to finish second.

Kemboi The Greatest Steepler Of All Time?
Ezekiel Kemboi became the eighth straight Kenyan steeplechase champion (tenth in a row when they’ve shown up) and the only man since
Volmari Iso-Hollo in 1936 to win two steeple crowns. More importantly, he asserted his claim as the best steeplechaser of all time.

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad had no doubts about Kemboi's place in history. He said, "He (Kemboi) is a great champion. The best of all time."

Kemboi now has two Olympic titles, two world titles, and three Worlds runner-ups. The only thing he does not have is the world record. His PR of 7:55.76 from Monaco last year makes him the sixth fastest iin history, but he's only 2.13 away from the world record.

Kemboi said it was most important to keep the gold for Kenya, saying, "Winning this medal for Kenya is good for us because in sports, countries have their best sports. Sri Lanka has cricket, S. American sprints. ... Kenya winning this medal. This race is ours and we're not going to let someone else win."

The flamboyant Kemboi, who not only finished in lane 8, but also changed his hairstyle between the prelim and the final just like he did before Worlds last year in Daegu, said the marathon may be in his future. He said, "I think finishing in lane 8, is an indication that i am now adding the marathon. I am leaving lanes 1-7 to the younger guys. I want to plan with my coach (steeplechase great) Moses Kiptanui to run the marathon. ... The lady today (Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova) who was #3 in the marathon was a steeplechaser (silver medallist at Worlds in 2007)."

Kemboi came to England to train at Bristol with some of the Kenyan team but then in late July returned to Kenya to train because of too much rain. However, Kemboi said spending a little time in England helped him win and he also wanted to thank the enthusiastic British crowd, saying, "I had to get some morale. I want to dedicate my dance to the English people."

Mekhissi-Benabbad leaves his second Olympics with the silver medal. He still dreams of beating Kemboi and with Kemboi possibly moving to the marathon he may get the chance in Rio. Mekhissi-Benabbad said, "I want to congratulate Ezekiel Kemboi because he won and it is not by chance because he won in 2004. ... He is stronger than me, but I do hope one day I can beat him."

The 23-year-old Abel Mutai left his first Olympics with a bronze. The youngster had bigger goals, saying, "The race was tactical and it was tough. It was very slow. I think we need to have at least a pacemaker at the Olympic Games. I thought I was going to win it when I reached the last 400 metres but it didn't happen." Later he said, "I am happy to get a bronze in my first senior race."

Americans React
Twenty-three-year-old Evan Jager leaves with a sixth-place finish at the Olympics in the seventh steeplechase of his life (fifth if you only count finals).

Jager had his eyes set on a medal. "I'm very happy to be here. Very happy to have made the final, but I was hoping the race would have gone better and I could have placed better. Sixth isn't terrible. It was pretty good. It was fun," said Jager.

Jager said he prepared for all types of races. He said, "There was a possibility of it ether going really slow or really fast. Mentally I was preparing for very fast, as mentally it would have been much harder to change plans mid race (if it had gone out fast and I expected I to be slow). I was kind of pleasantly surprised that it went out that slow,” said Jager. “Just put it alll in the kick. I was pretty confident in my kicking and hurdling ability to keep me a little bit closer to the leaders in a slower race. So I was happy about that."

Jager said the race was super-physical with a "lot of bumping and shoving." Brimin Kipruto went down right in front of him and Jager put his hand on Kipruto's back to avoid going down himself.

Ultimately Jager just didn't have enough over the last 400. Jager was right where he wanted to be entering the bell - in fifth - just meters behind the leader (see photo below).

"When it started picking up I tried to say relaxed, stay calm, and as best i could hurdle efficiently. They took off with 400 to go and I just couldn't respond. I'm a little disappointed they pulled away that easily but it was a good experience. It was fun running up front with Donn. Now back to work," said Jager.

Back to work includes likely a flat 3,000m in Stockholm the Friday after the Olympics, a 1,500m after that and possibly a steeplechase in Brussels to end the season. Jager's future is bright in the steeple as he is a total neophyte and taken to the event well. He said he is not surprised he is running as fast, as he is as his flat 3,000m indicates he could run this fast. He does still have some to learn about the steeple, as he stumbled on Brimin Kipruto's name, calling him, "Birmin ... Birmin Kiptoo."

Two spots behind Jager was teammate Donn Cabral. Cabral said he felt the run was indicative of where he had been running all year although an ideal race would have left him with a medal.

"It was a fun experience. A great step. 8th at the Olympics is pretty amazing. I think I've got more in me. If it's not coming this year, I think it will come next year," he said.

As for leading the race, Cabral knows there are no bonus points for leading. He said, "It was amazing doing it but leading mid-race is different than leading at the end of the race as it was, it's not the Tour de France where you get points for mid-race tactics."

Cabral was in the mix in seventh heading into the final lap but didn't have it the final lap. He knew things would have to go perfectly, saying, "Everyone knew it was coming. Everyone knew it was going to be a big kick. It's tough when you're in a pack to respond to things. If I'm trying to respond to those moves, I need everything to be perfect at this point in my running career and I didn't just quite have it to get around people and put myself in that place."

Cabral said as long as things are going well, he could keep running this year as he can improve at a lot of events.

Kipruto didn’t talk to the media after the race. Results and quick takes appear below.

Quick Take #1: During Kenya's win streak in the steeple, they have picked up a second medal every time except 1984. Twice Kenya has gone 1-2-3 (1992 and 2000) and twice now they have finished first and third (they also did it in 2008). Every other time, they have gone 1-2.

Quick Take #2: After the race, Kemboi and Mekhissi-Benabbad exchanged singlets and celebrated together as shown by the twitter pic below.

3,000 Metres Steeplechase - M Final
05 August 2012 - 21:25
Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 2297 Ezekiel Kemboi KEN 8:18.56 .
2 1762 Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad FRA 8:19.08 .
3 2314 Abel Kiprop Mutai KEN 8:19.73 .
4 1685 Roba Gari ETH 8:20.00 .
5 2303 Brimin Kiprop Kipruto KEN 8:23.03 .
6 3223 Evan Jager USA 8:23.87 .
7 2455 Hamid Ezzine MAR 8:24.90 .
8 3208 Donald Cabral USA 8:25.91 .
9 3071 Tarik Langat Akdag TUR 8:27.64 .
10 2482 Ion Luchianov MDA 8:28.15 .
11 2463 Brahim Taleb MAR 8:32.40 .
12 1691 Nahom Mesfin ETH 8:35.12 .
13 2133 Yuri Floriani ITA 8:40.07 .
. 3111 Benjamin Kiplagat UGA DQ .
. 1723 Jukka Keskisalo FIN DNF .
Intermediate Bib Athlete Nat Mark
1,000m 3208 Donald Cabral USA 2:52.70
2,000m 2314 Abel Kiprop Mutai KEN 5:43.26

More: MB: *RE: Ezekiel Kemboi: SIT DOWN YANKS *RE: Kemboi lol *TODAY I STOOD UP FOR MY BOY EZEKIEL KEMBOI *RE: What can Ezekiel Kemboi run for 5k? 10? *Kemboi wins, Frog 2nd, Mutai 3rd, but Kipruto runs gutsiest race of all

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