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 being pushed forward in the final round in Tokyo
- Soufiane El Bakkali finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
- The Moroccan also finished third at the 2019 World Championships in Athletics
- El Bakkali was in the middle of the field with four laps to go
- However, he made his move late to Lamecha Girma and Getnet Wale. to catch up
- 2016 champion Conseslus Kipruto failed to qualify for Tokyo Games
- Bronze medalist Benjamin Kigen vows to win gold for Kenya in 2024
- Read the latest Olympic news in Tokyo, including schedule, medal table and results here
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali won gold in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase at the Olympics on Monday, breaking Kenya’s stranglehold on an event they had won nine times in a row.
25-year-old El Bakkali, fourth at the 2016 Olympics and bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships, finished in a time of 8:08.90.
Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia claimed silver clocking in at 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 forward on the last lap to take revenge on fourth place in 2016
Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto, the 2016 Olympic champion, failed to qualify for the Games, reducing the East African nation’s chances of winning a 10th consecutive Olympic steeplechase gold since 1984.
El Bakkali ran a patient, tactical race one night when earlier in the evening the skies opened and rain poured down on Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, cooling the temperature after days of brutal heat.
With about four laps to go, the Moroccan was in the middle of the pack, with Girma, who boasted of this year’s leading time, and his compatriot Getnet Wale in the lead, while the Ethiopian delegation in the stadium roared as they went into the curve.
Earlier in the race, it looked like Kenya and Ethiopia would be battling for the medals, with Girma and Wale in the lead, but were almost shoulder to shoulder with Kigen and his compatriot Abraham Kibiwot.
The Ethiopians were still in the front when the bell rang with one lap to go, but El Bakkali moved up to third and when Wale tumbled, the Moroccan jumped ahead in the final corner and rode to the finish.
“It was not easy for me to face 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 to celebrate his victory.
“I’m so used to seeing Kenyans win, it’s a big achievement for me,” he later said. ‘I have been striving for this for years and this was my chance to show that Morocco is capable of winning this award.
“I tried so many times to compare myself to the Kenyans and Ethiopians to see if I could achieve this gold, and I succeeded,” he added.
Lamecha Girma chose to go out hard and was dragged off late in first place by El Bakkali
Girma, 20, said moving forward early was a tactical decision.
“The race was really interesting. I’m glad I got this second place and I’m very happy with the result,” he said.
Kigen, 28, said there was a lot of pressure to know that Kenya had been so dominant during the event.
Benjamin Kigen pledged to take home gold from Paris 2024 after winning bronze this time
“I ran at my best and I have (a) medal. It’s my first time at the Olympics, which is a privilege for me,” he said.
“There’s a lot of pressure. I know many of our previous champions and train with them. Next time I promise to bring the (gold) medal.’