TOKYO: Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco won gold in the Olympic men’s 3,000m steeplechase today, breaking Kenya’s stranglehold on an event they had won nine times in a row.
The 25-year-old El Bakkali, fourth in the 2016 Olympics and bronze medallist in the 2019 World Championships, finished in a time of 8:08.90s.
Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia claimed silver, clocking 8:10.38s, and Benjamin Kigen of Kenya took the bronze in 8:11.45s.
Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya, the 2016 Olympic champion, failed to qualify for the Games, reducing the East African nation’s chance of winning a 10th straight Olympic steeplechase gold since 1984.
El Bakkali ran a patient, tactical race and with about four laps to go he was in the middle of the pack, with Girma and his compatriot Getnet Wale leading.
Early in the race, it looked like it would be Kenya versus Ethiopia battling it out for the medals, as Girma and Wale led, ahead of Kigen and his countryman Abraham Kibiwot.
The Ethiopians were still ahead as the bell rang with one lap remaining, but El Bakkali moved up to third and when Wale took a tumble the Moroccan surged ahead on the final bend and powered to the finish line.