For the first time since the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, in 1984, a Kenyan did not win the 3,000m steeplechase. It is the Moroccan Soufiane El-Bakkali who won this event, in 8:08, Monday, August 2 in Tokyo. He beat the Ethiopian Lamecha Girma and the Kenyan Benjamin Kigen. Frenchman Alexis Phelut finished in twelfth place.
The last Olympic champion, the Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, also double reigning world champion, was not present. Out of form, he had abandoned during the Kenyan selections in June. He was, moreover, accused since the end of 2020, by a young girl of 15 years, of sexual assault.
Well placed in the leading group, Soufiane El-Bakkali escaped on the penultimate lap with two Ethiopians and two Kenyans. He then resisted when Lamecha Girma hardened the race 400m from the finish, before accelerating to 200m from the line to give Morocco its first Olympic gold medal since Hicham El Guerrouj’s brace, in 2004, in Athens (over the 1,500 m and 5,000 m).
Fourth in Rio
El Bakkali is not totally unknown in the world of 3,000m steeplechase. Then 20 years old, the Moroccan took fourth place in Rio, sandwiched between the French Mahiedine Mekhissi, third, and Yoann Kowal, fifth. It was then went for a silver medal at the London Worlds in 2017, before winning bronze in Doha, two years later.
He also signed the best global performances of the year in 2018 (7:58) and 2020 (8:08). He arrived at the Games in Tokyo with the third fastest time this year.