Conseslus Kipruto beats Evan Jager to Olympic steeplechase gold in Rio

Only a fool would bet against a Kenyan winning gold in the men’s 3000m steeplechase at the Olympics. The East African nation has won every title since 1984 and in Rio the sequence continued with Conseslus Kipruto taking the title in an Olympic record of 8:03.28.

It was not a clean sweep for Kenya, though, as Evan Jager of the United States struck a blow for non-African distance runners by earning a hard-fought silver as he also went under the old Olympic record.

Jager led for much of the latter stages before Kipruto blasted clear down the back straight on the last lap. But the American rallied to beat Ezekiel Kemboi, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic champion, as he clocked 8:04.28 ahead of Kemboi’s 8:08.47, with Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France fourth in 8:11.52. However, a few hours later the results were amended to show the disqualification of Kemboi, with the athlete said to have stepped on the inside of the track.

When Kemboi was taking Olympic gold in London four years ago, Kipruto was winning the world junior title in Barcelona. Since then the 21-year-old has won silver twice at the World Championships and Rio was a first major senior title for the Dutch-based runner. “I was so prepared to win today,” he said triumphantly.

After his third-place finish, Kemboi had said that the Games would mark the end of his competitive career, but after it was confirmed that he would not be getting the bronze his retirement plans were not so certain. In addition to his two Olympic golds, he has won four world titles and now, aged 34, he had said he plans to retire to spend time on interests such as his position on the IAAF athletes’ commission.

“If Conseslus or Evan need my teaching for the steeplechase, I will give them it,” Kemboi grinned before adding: “For a lot of money.”

For Jager, he felt honoured to be on the podium with the Kenyans. “Since I started, it’s been a goal of mine to beat some of them on the day at the championships,” he explained. “So to beat Kemboi is great as he’s been so dominant over such a long period time and I believe he’s the greatest steeplechaser of all time.”

Caster Semenya began her 800m campaign with a comfortable win in 1:59.31. Britain’s Shelayna Oskan-Clarke was third in the same heat, just behind Ajee Wilson, but her 1:59.67 was good enough to see her through as a fast loser. Lynsey Sharp did not have a nervous wait, though, as she made sure of qualification by winning her heat smoothly in 2:00.83.

Ashton Eaton also got his decathlon off to a good start. The American ran 10.46 in the 100m behind the event’s quickest, Damian Warner of Canada, who ran a 10.30 Olympic decathlon best. Eaton then produced the best long jump of the day with 7.94m before throwing the shot 14.73m as Kevin Mayer of France topped the contest with 15.76m.

Wojciech Nowicki of Poland led the hammer qualifying with 77.64m as Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus, Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan and Krisztian Pars of Hungary also impressed.

World champion Pawel Fajdek went out though, as the Pole only threw 72.00m, while Britons Chris Bennett (71.32m), Mark Dry (71.03m) and Nick Miller (70.83m) did not progress to the final either.

“Frustrating,” said an emotional Dry. “My body’s just not firing. No excuses, I tried my hardest.”

» Further coverage of the morning session on day six, including Mo Farah’s qualification for the 5000m final, can be found here