World Champs Men’s Steeple — Champs Racer Bests Record Man

“Today’s field was very strong with athletes like Lamecha [Girma, left],” said Soufiane El Bakkali. Yet the Moroccan struck with devastating effect on the last lap to successfully defend his title. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)
LAMECHA GIRMA’S QUEST to unseat defending world and Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali as the king of the steeplechase fell just short, as the Moroccan used a familiar tactic over the last lap to overtake the Ethiopian WR holder and win his second straight title and fourth career WC medal.

A group of 5 that included NCAA/USATF champion Kenneth Rooks of BYU took to the front early, with Girma and El Bakkali towards the back, content to watch the others before moving.

Shortly after the first kilometer, Girma had had enough and began working his way to the front, knowing that El Bakkali was eventually going after him. At halfway, Girma was up front with Kenya’s Leonard Bett. El Bakkali lurked in 4th, part of a group of 6 behind the 4 frontrunners. Girma and Bett stayed together through the second kilometer, before El Bakkali crept his way up to almost even with Girma entering the bell.

At that point, it became a mano-a-mano battle between the two and they broke away from everyone else. Just past the final waterjump, El Bakkali put away the WR holder with a concluding surge on the outside to take the victory in a time of 8:03.53 as a spent Girma took 2nd in 8:05.44.

Abraham Kibiwot of Kenya overtook countryman Bett, despite taking a fall over a barrier entering the final lap and got the last podium spot in 8:11.98 to Bett’s 8:12.26.

Rooks finished as the top American, crossing the line 10th in 8:20.02, while teammate Isaac Updike was 16th in a PR 8:30.67.

El Bakkali said, “After winning in Eugene last year, I am really proud to bring home another gold. I had great preparations for these championships but today’s field was very strong with athletes like Lamecha.

“I came ready and prepared and believed I could win. This medal gives me additional motivation for the Olympic Games in Paris. I want to win there too.”

The 22 year old Girma said that despite losing out to El Bakkali, he has even greater motivation to turn the tide on the Moroccan: “That is my fourth global silver medal but I am satisfied by every single race against El Bakkali. The weather today was a bit hot, but the final was pretty good. I still aim to win gold at the World Championships or Olympic Games. Nothing has changed in my goals. Maybe I became even more motivated for next year.

He added, “We will discuss what was wrong. I am sure I was highly prepared physically and technically as I managed to break the World Record. It tells you everything about my fitness. Maybe I had a lack of focus. In any case, I continue fighting and dreaming about Worlds gold.”


FINAL (August 22; interior waterjump)

1. Soufiane El Bakkali (Mor) 8:03.53 (14.97, 29.84, 58.25, 2:28.90);

2. Lamecha Girma (Eth) 8:05.44 (15.93, 31.77, 60.62, 2:31.15) (5:34.29);

3. Abraham Kibiwot (Ken) 8:11.98 (15.13, 31.45, 65.24, 2:37.56);

4. Leonard Bett (Ken) 8:12.26 (15.29, 32.16) (2:50.41);

5. Geordie Beamish (NZ) 8:13.46 (13.26, 28.84);

6. Ryuji Miura (Jpn) 8:13.70 (15.43, 31.49);

7. Simon Koech (Ken) 8:14.37;

8. Jean-Simon Desgagnés (Can) 8:15.58 PR;

9. Daniel Arce (Spa) 8:18.31; 10. Kenneth Rooks (US) 8:20.02; 11. Getnet Wale (Eth) 8:21.03; 12. Leonard Chemutai (Uga) 8:21.61; 13. Mohamed Amine Jihnaoui (Tun) 8:23.08; 14. Ryuma Aoki (Jpn) 8:24.77; 15. Simon Sundström (Swe) 8:27.68; 16. Isaac Updike (US) 8:30.67.

HEATS (August 19)

I–1. Wale 8:19.99; 2. Desgagnés 8:20.04; 3. Koech 8:20.29; 4. Arce 8:20.46; 5. Aoki 8:20.54; 6. Mohammed Tindoufti (Mor) 8:20.67; 7. Avinash Sable (Ind) 8:22.24; 8. Benard Keter (US) 8:24.20; 9. Vidar Johansson (Swe) 8:27.21; 10. Ahmed Jaziri (Tun) 8:29.81; 11. Topi Raitanen (Fin) 8:30.69; 12. Matthew Clarke (Aus) 8:40.92.

II–1. Rooks 8:23.66; 2. El Bakkali 8:23.66; 3. Jihnaoui 8:24.20; 4. Kibiwot 8:24.31; 5. Chemutai 8:24.74; 6. Nahuel Carabaña (And) 8:27.05; 7. István Palkovits (Hun) 8:29.37; 8. Abraham Seme (Eth) 8:31.49; 9. Osama Zoghlami (Ita) 8:33.07; 10. Salaheddine Ben Yazide (Mor) 8:38.14; 11. Seiya Sunada (Jpn) 8:38.59; 12. Emil Blomberg (Swe) 8:42.33.

III–1. Girma 8:15.89; 2. Beamish 8:16.36; 3. Bett 8:16.74; 4. Miura 8:18.73; 5. Sundström 8:20.10 PR; 6. Víctor Ruiz (Spa) 8:20.54; 7. Djilali Bedrani (Fra) 8:20.69; 8. Karl Bebendorf (Ger) 8:22.33; 9. Mohammed Msaad (Mor) 8:22.95; 10. Ala Zoghlami (Ita) 8:28.76; 11. Updike (advanced on appeal) 8:31.81; 12. Fouad Idbafdil (Ref) 8:39.21; 13. Julián Molina (Arg) 8:46.44.