Soufiane El Bakkali becomes the first non-Kenyan man to win the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase as Moroccan ENDS their 37-YEAR reign of dominance after pushing to the front on the final lap in Tokyo
- Soufiane El Bakkali finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
- The Moroccan also came third at the 2019 World Athletics Championships
- El Bakkali was situated in the middle of the field with four laps remaining
- However, he made his move late to overtake Lamecha Girma and Getnet Wale
- 2016 champion Conseslus Kipruto did not qualify for the Tokyo Games
- Bronze medallist Benjamin Kigen has vowed to win the gold for Kenya in 2024
- Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here
Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco won gold in the Olympic men’s 3,000 metres steeplechase on Monday, 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 8:08.90.
Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia claimed silver, clocking 8:10.38, and Benjamin Kigen of Kenya took the bronze in 8:11.45.
Soufiane El Bakkali is overcome with emotion after winning the men’s 3,000m steeplechase
The Moroccan pushed to the front on the final lap to avenge a fourth-placed finish in 2016
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 on a night when earlier in the evening the heavens opened up and rained poured down at Tokyo’s Olympic stadium cooling down the temperature after days of punishing heat.
With about four laps to go, the Moroccan was in the middle of the pack, with Girma, who boasted this year’s leading time, and his compatriot Getnet Wale leading, as the Ethiopian delegation in the stadium roared them on as they hit the bend.
Earlier in the race, it looked like it would be Kenya versus Ethiopia battling it out for the medals, as Girma and Wale led, but were almost shoulder to shoulder with Kigen and his countryman Abraham Kibiwot.
The Ethiopians were still out front 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.
‘It was not easy for me to be in front of the Kenyans and Ethiopians. I know how hard it is to be first in front of them,’ El Bakkali told reporters.
El Bakkali became the first non-Kenyan to win the event since Bronislaw Malinowski in 1980
El Bakkali wrapped his country’s flag around himself to celebrate his victory.
‘I am so used to seeing Kenyans win, it’s a big accomplishment for me,’ he said later. ‘I have been aiming for this for years and this was my opportunity to show that Morocco is capable of winning this prize.
‘I have tried so many times to compare myself with the Kenyans and Ethiopians to see whether I could reach this gold, and I did,’ he added.
Lamecha Girma chose to go out hard and was just run out for first place by El Bakkali late on
Girma, 20, said that moving ahead early was a tactical decision.
‘The race was really interesting. I am happy I got this second place and I am really happy with the result,’ he said.
Kigen, 28, said there was a lot of pressure that came with knowing that Kenya had been so dominant in the event.
Benjamin Kigen promised to bring home gold from Paris 2024 after claiming bronze this time
‘I ran to my best and I have (a) medal. It is my first time at the Olympics, which is a privilege for me,’ he said.
‘There is a lot of pressure. I know a lot of our previous champions and train with them. Next time I promise I will bring the (gold) medal.’