|Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto, Conseslus Kipruto and Jairus Birech|
Among the burning questions and curiosity on what to expect at the IAAF world championships this year is: Will Kenya’s supremacy in the men’s 3000m steeplechase continue past the Doha championships?
Since the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Conseslus Kipruto has not only been fighting to keep a stellar record in his running career but as well to –single-handedly- keep the Kenyan tradition of dominating the event. He followed that by winning the World Championship title in 2017, the Commonwealth Games title in 2018 and the Continental Cup title. But, with the growing strength in competition and interest from other nations, it remains to be seen how long one man is going to keep Kenya on top.
Kenya’s history in dominating the men’s 3000m steeplechase event has been unparalleled by any other nation. It began in 1968. From 1991 to 2017, Kenyan-born athletes have won all the individual titles at the IAAF world championships. Except for Kenyan-born Saif Shaheen doing it for Qatar, his new country of citizenship, in 2003 and 2005, the rest of the runners have ensured that the Kenyan national anthem was sung in the rest of the championships. Moses Kiptanui won it in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Wilson Boit won the 1997 edition. Christoper Kosgei won the 1999 title. Reuben Kosgei won in 2001. Brimin KIpruto won the title in 2007. Ezekiel Kemboi did it in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. Conseslus Kipruto is the reigning champion having won the title in 2017.
However, looking at the results from the first IAAF Diamond League race in Doha this year in which Morroco’s Soufiane El Bakkali won followed by Hillary Bor of the US, it appears as though the Kenyan men are slowly showing signs of losing the grip on this event.
Most of the longtime top performers from Kenya have so far moved on to the road races, including the “King of steeplechase” himself, Ezekiel Kemboi; Brimin Kipruto; Jairus Birech and Kipsiele Koech. Except for Conseslus Kipruto who is currently nursing an injury, the rest of the upcoming Kenyan runners in this race appear to be struggling to fit in the big shoes left by their predecessors.
It is encouraging to Kenyan fans though to see the women taking after their male counterparts and beginning to dominate the event as well.