The King Still Rules – Ezekiel Kemboi Hands Upstart Conseslus Kipruto His First Loss of Year; Evan Jager 5th

August 15, 2013

Moscow, Russia – The future of the men’s steeplechase may one day very soon belong to Kenya’s 18-year old phenom Conseslus Kipruto, the 2011 World Youth and 2012 World Junior champ who had won all six of his steeples this year before tonight, but the present still very much belongs to Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi.

Kemboi used his devastating kick to pull away from Kipruto over the final half-lap and win the fifth global steeple title of his career and fourth straight (2009, 2011, and 2013 Worlds, and 2012 Olympics – Kemboi also won the 2004 Olympics) in 8:06.01 to Kipruto’s 8:06.37. France’s two-time Olympic silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, the European record holder, was third in European record holder 8:07.86.

The world’s third fastest man in history, Paul Kipsiele Koech, ended up fourth in 8:08.62, just holding off American record holder Evan Jager (8:08.67).

Article continues below player.

The Race

Ezekiel Kemboi on his way to victory after clearing the last barrier

Ezekiel Kemboi on his way to victory after clearing the last barrier

Even if the lap by lap splits weren’t totally even, the opening two kilometers were amazingly even – 2:45.94 and 2:46.01 – before this race got slammed home hard on the last lap.

Up front, a Kenyan was in the lead throughout. Kipruto led at first, then Kipziele Koech took over with three laps remaining. At the bell, Kipruto led once again but the race was up for grabs for any of five people in the lead pack, which included Jager.

On the back-stretch, just before 200 to go, Mekhissi-Benabbad moved up on the shoulder of Kipruto. As he did this Kemboi came three wide as well. Kemboi took the lead on the last water jump and never looked back. As Kemboi moved out into lane three or four as is customary, Kipruto did come back on him a little bit but a premature celebration didn’t cost Kemboi the title.

Quick takes, results and screen shots appear below.

Kemboi was proud of his mo-hawk after the race

Kemboi was proud of his mo-hawk after the race

Quick Take (QT) #1 Kemboi GOAT?: The case certainly can be made that Kemboi, who sported a newly shaved mohawk tonight, is the GOAT (greatest of all time). He now is tied with Moses Kiptanui with the most gold medals in history at Worlds (3). But in addition to that, he has two Olympic golds (Kiptanui had zero) and three World Championship silvers (Kiptanui had one).

Given his recent dominance, it’s hard to believe Kemboi won silver the first three times he ran Worlds (losing to Saif Saeed Shaheen in 2003 and 2005, and to Brimin Kipruto in 2007).

The one person some might say better than Kemboi is Qatar’s world record holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen. Shaheen won two worlds over Kemboi (2003, 2005) and almost certainly would have won the 2004 Olympics over Kemboi had Shaheen not been forced to sit out after switching his allegiance to Qatar from Kenya. Shaheen’s former coach Renato Canova has a nice write-up on tonights steeple and the future of the event here.

QT #2 Kenya Keeps Winning: A Kenyan-born male has now won 8 straight Olympics titles (since 1984) and 12 straight World Champs  (everyone since 1993)

QT #3 Kemboi the Politician: Kemboi’s celebration tonight was muted by his outlandish standards. Instead of doing a big dance, Kemboi seemed more interested in garnering good will from Kenya’s politicians as he actually wore a white tshirt under his singlet which he exposed after the race which said the president and his deputy in Kenya were Kemboi’s “Heroes” and “Kings”. Photo here. President Kenyatta will be in Russia on Friday maybe Kemboi can meet with him.

Kemboi did clown around with Mekhissi on the medal stand.

QT #4: We had lap by lap splits for the leader on the outside water jump as follows (an outside water jump is worth roughly 3.5 seconds per lap versus an inside water jump we believe).

8.5 seconds roughly to finish line.

60.29 may not sound fast, but it is as if you subtract 3.5 from it you get 56.8 if it was a normal track with an inside pit, which is in line with the 56 mid Kemboi closed in last year to win in Londin in an 8:18 race.

QT #5 Evan Jager Comes Up 1 Second Short & Speaks: Evan Jager was hoping to reverse history tonight by becoming America’s first medallist in the steeplechase ever at Worlds. He certainly has nothing to hang his head about after this one as he competed very well.

Last year, Jager was sixth at the Olympics but he was way farther from a medal (4.14 seconds) and gold medal (5.31 seconds) than he was tonight (.81 and 2.66).

We were surprised that after the race Jager said he didn’t think he’s going to run any more steeples this year. He said he plans on trying to get a new PB in the 5000 after Worlds before racing a lot of steeples in the non-World/Olympic year of 2014.

Jager indicated his fitness is much greater than last year.

We’d love to see him take crack at the 8:00 barrier, but Jager said next year is when he envisions running a lot more than this year.

Jager clearly is in great shape. When he opened at Prefontaine in 8:08 this year, he ran his last lap in about 63.

Last year in the Olympics, he closed in 61 high for an inside-water jump. Tonight, he closed in 62-point which would be something in the 59 range if it was an inside water jump. He’s moving in the right direction. And in three years, the top two guys in this race will be 34 and 31 years old respectively.

We talked quite a bit with Jager after the race. He also discussed how Jerry Schumacher’s group has changed over the years. Full video below:

QT #6: How rare is it for an American to come within 1-second of a medal in the men’s steeple? Very.

In the 14 editions of Worlds, the US has put just a total of 10 men into a steeple final. Jager was actually the US’s first finalist in almost a decade. He was .81 away from bronze – the 2nd closest an American has ever come to bronze. Brian Diemer, the Olympic bronze medallist in 1984, was .1 away from bronze in 1991.

The USA’s World Championship Finalists In The Men’s Steeple
2013: Evan Jager 5th (.81 from a medal).
2005: Dan Lincoln 13th
2001: Time Broe 11th,
1997: Mark Croghan 6th.
1993: Mark Croghan 5th (.98 from a medal). Marc Davis 11th.
1991: Brian Diemer 5th (.10 away from Graeme Fell’s bronze).
1987: Brian Diemer 4th (2.28 away from medal). Henry March 6th.
1983: Henry Marsh 8th.

QT #7: Canada’s Graeme Fell appears on the list above. His 28-year old Canadian record of 8:12.58 fell to two-time NCAA champ Matt Hughes who ran 8:11.64 to finish sixth.

Hughes has switched coaches this year and started training with Nate Brannen which has been very helpful.

QT #8 Koech Comes Up Short (Again): The 31-year old Paul Kipsiele Koech is one of the fastest steeplechasers in history. His 7:54.31 is #3 all-time and his nine sub-8:00 clocking is second all-time to Saif Saeed Shaheen’s ten. However his disappointing record at global championships continued tonight.

Koech has now been the Worlds/Olympics four times for Kenya and has a single bronze to his hame.

Paul Kipsiele Koech’s Career Finishes at Outdoor Global Championships
2004 – bronze
2005 – 7th
2009 – 4th
2013 – 4th


Details 1 702 Ezekiel KEMBOI KENKEN 8:06.01
Details 2 712 Conseslus KIPRUTO KENKEN 8:06.37
Details 3 465 Mahiedine MEKHISSI-BENABBAD FRAFRA 8:07.86
Details 4 717 Paul Kipsiele KOECH KENKEN 8:08.62
Details 5 1136 Evan JAGER USAUSA 8:08.67
Details 6 254 Matthew HUGHES CANCAN 8:11.64 NR
Details 7 720 Abel Kiprop MUTAI KENKEN 8:17.04
Details 8 458 Yoann KOWAL FRAFRA 8:17.41
Details 9 774 Hamid EZZINE MARMAR 8:19.53
Details 10 784 Ion LUCHIANOV MDAMDA 8:19.99
Details 11 392 Ángel MULLERA ESPESP 8:20.93
Details 12 1075 Jacob ARAPTANY UGAUGA 8:25.86
Details 13 251 Alex GENEST CANCAN 8:27.01
Details 14 1077 Benjamin KIPLAGAT UGAUGA 8:31.09
Details 471 Noureddine SMAÏL FRAFRA DNF


1000M: 2:45.94Conseslus KIPRUTO
2000M : 5:31.95 Paul Kipsiele KOECH
1.25 laps to go

1.25 laps to go

bell lap

Bell lap

Just less than half a lap to go

Just less than half a lap to go

Ezekiel Kemboi on his way to victory after clearing the last barrier

Ezekiel Kemboi on his way to victory after clearing the last barrier

*LRC Vault: 2012 Olympics:2012 Men’s Olympic Steeplechase: Ezekiel Kemboi Wins Second Olympic Steeplechase Title – Is He The Greatest Steeplechaser In History?

*More Steeple Coverage on Our Worlds Steeple page
*All of our post-race interviews here
World Championships 2013

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