Kenya: Ethiopian Who Almost Broke Kenyans Hearts in Doha

8 October 2019

As the dust settles on the World Championships that came to a close on Sunday, Kenya will look back at her performance in Doha with deep concern despite finishing second.

This is after her dominance in races considered to be Kenyan strongholds was shaken. To put it into perspective, only Hellen Obiri (5000m) and Conseslus Kipruto (3000m steeplechase) defended their titles from London 2017.

Kipruto's triumph particularly did not inspire confidence given that he only beat Lamecha Girma by one hundredth of a second.

Needless to say how would the Ethiopian celebrate his 20th birthday on November 26 this year if he brought down Kenya's 12-year dominance over men's 3,000m steeplechase?

Ethiopians' unity when it comes to championship events is unrivalled. They sacrifice a lot to ensure that they win accolades for their nation.

This year's World Championships in Doha was no exemption when little-known Girma and experienced, Getnet Wale, the World Under-20 bronze medallist, and 2016 Africa champion Chala Beyo were unleashed against the favourite Kenyans.

Kenya had defending champion Conseslus Kipruto, African Games champion Benjamin Kigen, World Under-20 silver medallist Leonard Bett and Abraham Kibiwott, the 2016 Africa bronze medallist.

After some exchange of leads, it's Wale, who was unleashed on Kipruto, Kigen and Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali with Girma staying at the back of the pack. Bett and Kibiwott failed to keep up with the pace.

STRONG CHASE

Wale led at the bell as the rest of the pack pushed but its Girma, who took control just before the last water jump and cruised through first over the last barrier. Kipruto gave a strong chase to edge out Girma by 0.01 seconds.

However, Kipruto had to wait anxiously before he was declared the winner in 8:01.35 against Girma's 8:01.36. El Bakkali settled for bronze, a drop in performance from 2017 London where he claimed silver.

Girma only came to the limelight last year when he finished fifth at Ethiopia Under-20 Championships to miss out on the World-Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. While Takele Nigate won gold in Tampere, Bett and Wale settled for silver.

The battle therefore was set to revolve around Kipruto, Wale, El Bakkali, Bett and Kigen with Girma being given little chance.

GIRMA'S EMERGENCE

Girma had started his season with a bronze at the Africa Under-20 Championships in April where Bett reigned supreme.

However, Girma would claim victory during the Ethiopian trials for the Doha World held in Hengelo in July, finished third in Paris Diamond League in August before returning a similar position in the Diamond League final in Brussels.

Girma showed all the intentions winning his semi-final heat in Doha before he almost dethroned Kipruto off the World title.

Brimin Kipruto won at Osaka 2007 before legendary Ezekiel Kemboi reigned supreme to win four titles back-to-back from Berlin 2009, Daegu 2011, Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015.

Then Kipruto, who had played second fiddle to Kemboi in Moscow and Beijing, finally won in London 2017 and then Doha 2019 in the closest of finishes.

Just who will be next?

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