Milcah Chemos Wins Kenya’s First Ever Women’s Steeplechase Gold

August 13, 2013

Moscow, Russia – With 2011 and 2012 champion Yuliya Zaripova pulling out  last week due to an injury and with Tunisia’s 2011 and 2012 silver medalist Habiba Ghribi a no-show as well, a world title was very much up for the taking tonight in the women’s steeplechase final held tonight at the 2013 IAAF World Championships.

Milcah Chemos Wins Her First World Title Milcah Chemos Wins Her First World Title

It was only fitting that Kenya’s Milcah Chemos, who had has dominated the Diamond League circuit in recent years by picking up 15 victories, took advantage and emerged with her first world title by running a world leading 9:11.65. Finishing second was the 2013 previous world leader, Lydya Chepkurui of Kenya, in 9:12.55, as Ethiopian national record holder Sofia Assefa overcame a fall with 1.75 laps remaining to repeat her bronze medal winning performance from the Olympics last year in 9:12.84.

The Race
This race quickly turned into a battle between the six Kenyans and Ethiopians in the field as those six entrants were well clear of everyone else in the field after two laps. The opening pace was very quick – 3:01.72 for the first km. The pace slowed down by 2km (6:11.36) before closing hard.

With two laps to go, the field was down to five contenders (the ultimate five top finishers in the race). Then disaster for Assefa struck as she went down and lost roughly 15 meters on the second barrier of that penultimate lap. Assefa did a great job of getting back up and rallying. At the final water jump, she passed fellow Ethiopian Hiwot Ayalew and moved into third and tried to run down the two Kenyans who had gapped Ayalew.

The Final Barrier

Assefa got close as at the final barrier, the top three were really close to each other – Chemos led by about 2 meters over Chepkurui who had about two meters on Assefa. However, after getting over the final barrier, Chemos found an extra gear and extended her lead as no positions changed in the final 100 meters.

Chemos, who had led the final 1km, was your winner.

Quick Take #1: This race went exactly as how we expected it to and it was only fitting that Chemos is your champion.

In our pre-race preview, we said we fully expected this to be a battle between the top five finishers at last year’s Olympics. Those five were way better than everyone last year (sixth was almost seven seconds back). With the top two out, it logically then meant we expected it to be a battle between the third, fourth and fifth placers at last year’s Olympics and that’s exactly what happened with the addition of 2013 world #1 Lidya Chepkurui (When writing our preview, we didn’t think that 2013 world #1 Lidya Chepkurui was running as she was only 4th at the Kenyan Trials and not reported as a team member by Kenya’s The Standard. Had we known she was indeed on the team (Kenya got four entrants as Chemos was the DL champion last year), we’d have added her to the mix).

Here are last year’s Olympic results 3-5:
3 Sofia Assefa ETH 9:09.84
4 Milcah Chemos Cheywa KEN 9:09.88
5 Hiwot Ayalew ETH 9:12.98

Here are tonight’s top 4 results:
1 Milcah Chemos Cheywa KEN 09:11.65 WL
2 Lidya Chepkurui KEN 09:12.55 PB
3 Sofia Assefa ETH 09:12.84 SB
4 Hiwot Ayalew ETH 09:15.25 SB

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For the record, Chemos is Kenya’s national record holder (9:07.14 is #4 all time) and Assefa at 9:09.00 is Ethiopia’s (#8 all-time).

QT #2: While every men’s World Championship since 1991 (11 straight) and every Olympic steeple since 1984 (8 straight) has been won by a Kenyan born athlete, tonight’s win was Kenya’s first ever on the women’s side – at the Worlds or the Olympics.

The steeple only became an event on the global stage for women in 2005 but in the six global championships before tonight, four times the event had been won by a Russian. In the four previous women’s Worlds, Kenya had won bronze in each of them (they did win a silver at the 2008 Olympics).

QT #3: Chemos was happy to be Kenya’s first-ever female steeple gold medallists and did her best Ezekiel Kemboi impersonation after winning by doing a little dance on the track.

“I’m feeling so good to win my first World title. Since I started steeplechase in 2009, I knew that one day I was going to be a World champion. I have been waiting, waiting, and this year it is my time. This year wasn’t about running good times but only to focus on the World Championships and prepare for this race,” said Chemos. “I dedicate my victory to my grandmother who died as we were about to leave for Moscow. ”

QT #4: After the race, we caught up with bronze medallist Sofia Assefa. One might think that Assefa, who won the bronze last year with both Zaripova and Ghribi in the field, would be disappointed to only end up with the bronze tonight given the fact her chances for gold were basically ruined by her fall as she definitely ran the fastest last 700 plus (outside water jump) after the fall. They would be wrong.

“I am very happy because I was number three for the first time (at Worlds). I was number three at the Olympics but never at the World Championships.”

When asked if she would have won had she not fallen, Assefa said, “I don’t know, maybe number two because Chemos is very strong.”

While Assefa beat Chemos at the Olympics by .04 last year, Assefa had not won a steeple all year. She’s now raced six steeples this year and finished second, third, third, second, second, second and third in those six races.

You can listen to our audio interview with Assefa here.

A Big Crowd at Worlds: A First

QT #5: The absence of Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova was a big loss for these championships. Tonight was very special for the hometown Russian fans as Yelena Isinbayeva brought the house down with a victory in the women’s pole vault. Had Zaripova been here as well, she would have been likely winning steeple gold as the pole vault was in its final stages. Tuesday night would have been the Russian equivalent of the Brit’s Super Saturday last year when Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford all won gold.

Nonetheless, the pole vault atmosphere was out of this world. While many have noted the crowds have been sparse, they actually make a lot of noise given their size, are very patriotic when a Russian does well. Tonight there were actually a decent amount of people in attendance.


Details 1 559 Milcah Chemos Cheywa KENKEN 9:11.65 WL
Details 2 555 Lidya Chepkurui KENKEN 9:12.55 PB
Details 3 324 Sofia Assefa ETHETH 9:12.84 SB
Details 4 326 Hiwot Ayalew ETHETH 9:15.25 SB
Details 5 333 Etenesh Diro ETHETH 9:16.97 SB
Details 6 560 Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi KENKEN 9:22.05 PB
Details 7 879 Valentyna Zhudina UKRUKR 9:33.73
Details 8 428 Antje Möldner-Schmidt GERGER 9:34.06
Details 9 422 Gesa Felicitas Krause GERGER 9:37.11 SB
Details 10 393 Eilish McColgan GBRGBR 9:37.33
Details 11 314 Diana Martín ESPESP 9:38.30 SB
Details 12 719 Natalya Gorchakova RUSRUS 9:38.57 SB
Details 13 685 Ancuta Bobocel ROUROU 9:53.35
Details 14 192 Silvia Danekova BULBUL 9:58.57
Details 15 599 Salima Elouali Alami MARMAR 10:08.36

Split times

1000m 3:01.72 Hiwot Ayalew
2000m 6:11.36 Milcah Chemos Cheywa

*Flash Steeple Final Photo Gallery

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