by Robert Johnson
August 17, 2016
This morning two-time Olympic steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi ran in the final steeplechase of his life. The 34-year-old Kemboi, who was the oldest man in the final, came into today’s race as the most decorated steeplechaser in history having won the last five global titles in the event. Today, in what turned out to be his final race, he was in contention until the final half lap for matching Usain Bolt as just the second man in history to win three gold medals in the same running event. Heading into the last lap. Kemboi and his 22-year-old countryman Conseslus Kipruto as well 27-year-old Evan Jager were more than six seconds ahead of everyone else in the field.
In the end, however, over the final half lap, Kemboi was unable keep pace with the younger competitors and had to settle for third. He jogged across the line disappointed in 8:08.47 – more than three seconds up on the 4th place finisher Mahiedine Mekhissi of France. However, his trademark smile soon came back and he did a victory lap with Kipruto. Once off the track, Kemboi sent shockwaves through the distance world by announcing that he was retiring – immediately.
“I just want to say today that I am officially retiring from athletics. I want to say thanks to all of my fans over the world – to the people in Kenya [and] my family. Today will be the last athletics [competition] of my career. Thank you,’” said Kemboi.
“At this old age, being on the podium is good…Sometimes we need to make the decision ‘Okay, you guys proceed (with the future)’. May the best man win (in London at the World Championships next year),” he added.
A great career had come to an end in fine fashion – even if it wasn’t quite the storybook ending Kemboi fans would have liked. However, the nice ending soon became a nightmare as a few hours later it was announced that Ezekiel Kemboi had been disqualified.
“For what?” was the first thought that went through mind of anyone who had watched the race. The IAAF — the organizing body for track and field — announced that a protest had been filed by the French. It was then determined that Kemboi’s left foot had stepped on or over the line after clearing the second water jump in the race and that he was therefore DQ’d for not running the full distance.
Here is a photo of the infraction.
The French should be ashamed. In a race that was nearly two miles long, where their runner was not even close to earning a medal during the actual competition, they think it’s a good idea to file a protest about a guy stepping on a line more than a mile from the finish line? They should be embarrassed and the IAAF and its Jury of Appeal should be as well for not dismissing it.
By upholding the protest, the IAAF is sending the exact opposite message that it needs to be sending. They are supporting the “win at all costs” mantra which is the same mantra that has resulted in the multiple doping scandals that are threatening the popularity of the Olympics.
The IAAF has issued the following statement, “A protest was presented by the French team after the 3000m Steeplechase Men Final against Kenyan athlete Ezekiel Kemboi, bib N. 2678, claiming he had stepped off the track.
“The Jury of Appeal met and examined the video of the race, confirming that KEMBOI, after clearing a water jump, had stepped outside the track on the curved part before the home straight. Kemboi is disqualified under Rule 163.3d (Lane infringement).”
France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi was unashamed to have received the medal via DQ. He was running behind Kemboi when the infraction occurred, saw it and was holding up his three fingers when he crossed the finish line. After the race, he said, “I think I am third. In the middle of the race, he cut the corner after the water jump. He took a shortcut, that is not a 3000m steeple anymore. In my mind, I would DQ him. I am waiting to see the outcome of the protest, but the rule is the rule.”
Update on 8/18: There is some good news to come out of this story. Because of the DQ, Kemboi has unretired – After The Outrageous French Protest Got Him Disqualified, Ezekiel Kemboi Quickly Unretires: “I will be coming to London 2017 to re-claim my medal from France. No limits.”
Talk about this development on our world famous messageboard / fan forum: Kemboi DQ’d from Steeple
More: LRC Farewell to the GOAT: Ezekiel Kemboi, the World’s Greatest Steeplechaser, Retires
LRCEvan Jager Wins Silver As Kenya’s Dominance In The Steeplechase Continues As Conseslus Kipruto Wins Gold, Ezekiel Kemboi Wins Bronze and Retires What a race.Ezekiel Kemboi‘s dominance of the men’s 3000 steeplechase (and his career) has come to an end. America’s 32-year medal drought in the event has ended as well. The Olympic record is gone as well.