Kenya: El Bakkali Ends Kenya's Steeplechase Dominance at Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo — Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali Monday broke Kenya's dominance in the 3,000 metres steeplechase race at the Olympic Games.

El Bakkali timed his run brilliantly at the last hurdle to sprint past Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma as Kenya's Benjamin Kigen settled third for bronze.

The Moroccan clocked 8:08.90, Girma was second in 8:10.38 while Kigen returned 8:11.50 to claim bronze.

Since Amos Biwott's exploits at Mexico 1968, Kenya had never failed to win gold in the Olympic Games men's steeplechase final.

The men's steeplechase roll of honour reads like this: Amos Biwott (1968, Mexico), Kipchoge Keino (1972, Munich), 1976 (Montreal, Kenya boycotted), 1980 (Moscow, Kenya boycotted), Julius Korir (1984, Los Angeles), Julius Kariuki (1988, Seoul), Mathew Birir (1992, Barcelona), Joseph Keter (1996, Atlanta), Reuben Kosgei (2000, Sydney), Ezekiel Kemboi (2004, Athens), Brimin Kipruto (2008, Beijing), Ezekiel Kemboi (2012, London) and Conseslus Kipruto (2016, Rio de Janeiro).

But on Monday, Kenya's duo of Abraham Kibiwott and Kigen failed to respond when Ethiopia's Girma and Getnet Wale as well as El Bakkali hit the front at the bell.

It was still anybody's race at the last water jump where Wale fell on the wet track leaving Kigen, Girma and El Bakkali assured of at least a medal.

The lanky El Bakkali tactfully peeled away from Girma to become the first Moroccan to win steeplechase gold at a major athletics championship as the Ethiopian held on for silver.

Kigen finished a distant third to hand Kenya a consolation on a night where what is almost considered a 'birthright' was snatched from them.

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