By Christian Radnedge
LONDON (Reuters) – Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto continued his country’s dominance of the 3,000 meters steeplechase with a courageous and confident victory at the World Championships on Tuesday, just weeks after recovering from an ankle injury.
A silver medalist in Beijing two years ago and Olympic champion in Rio last year, Kipruto kicked on to take the lead with less than 300 meters left and was celebrating well before crossing the finish line in a time of 8 minutes 14.12 seconds.
The east African nation has now won 12 out of the 15 editions of the race in World Championships history.
“I’m happy to be world champion. Last year I became Olympic champion and this year to be world champion was my hope,” Kipruto told reporters.
“I used my plans well and last night for morale I told myself: ‘I am Olympic champion and that others must break me’. There are others who are strong but I used my own plans. I knew if the race was around 8:10 that I was going to win.”
There was no clean sweep as there was in Beijing, however, as Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco stayed with the leading group throughout to clinch silver – his first major medal.
TEARS OF JOY
The 21-year-old, at his first World Championships, was in tears after the race.
“That was a bit of a surprise. I thought I would maybe get a medal next time, so this is great,” he said.
Kipruto, 22 years old, also won silver in his first World Championships in 2013. However, this time he made sure it was third time lucky and came down the final straight pointing to the crowd and stretching out his arms in celebration.
It was a surprising sight, given Kipruto suffered an ankle injury at the national trials in June and only resumed full training last month.
A Kenyan win did not look certain for much of the race. Evan Jager came to London as favorite following his Olympic silver medal last year and Kipruto’s injury.
The American led the field round and looked to be on course for victory until he was overtaken by the Kenyan.
Jager held on to take bronze in 8:15.53 and become the first American to win a world championship medal in the steeplechase.
“I thought I was running really smoothly for gold. I ran it the way I thought would give me the best opportunity at winning, by taking it out,” Jager said.
“I’m really happy to be on the podium, for sure, but I’m also disappointed because I had pretty high hopes of coming in here and winning gold, especially with the injury Conseslus picked up. I thought it gave me a great chance to win gold.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)