Another Day, Another Crown For Steeplechase King Kipruto

Sep 08 - by SPN Correspondent for sportpesa news

Kenyans Emmanuel Korir, Winnie Chebet claim victories at Ostrava 2018 to power Team Africa to glory

Conseslus Kipruto of Team Africa celebrates victory following the Mens 3000 Metre Steeplechase during day 1 of the IAAF Continental Cup at Mestsky Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. PHOTO/Stephen Pond/Getty Images for IAAF

  • In the men 3000m water and barriers race, the only predictable result in a dramatic race was Kipruto crossing the line ahead of all
  • Korir and Chebet helped Africa collect the men 800m and women 1500m events but the continent missed out the top honours in the men 3000m steeplechase 
  • Hellen Obiri finished third in the women 3000m final won by Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan who uncorked a championship record of 8:27.58
  • Korir of Kenya lived up to his billing as favourite in the men’s 800m as he and his Africa team-mate, Nijel Amos of Botswana, ensured overall victory in finishing first and third

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic- There is simply no stopping Olympic and world champion, Conseslus Kipruto as compatriots Emmanuel Korir and Winnie Chebet made Team Africa proud with victories at the opening day of the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Saturday.

Korir and Chebet helped Africa collect the men 800m and women 1500m events but the continent missed out the top honours in the men 3000m steeplechase despite Kipruto racking up yet another individual crown in his ever-expanding list.

Hellen Obiri finished third in the women 3000m final won by Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan who uncorked a championship record of 8:27.58 in an event where Team Europe and Team Africa shared the overall crown.

In the men 3000m water and barriers race, the only predictable result in a dramatic race where Africa’s decision to play the joker for double points in the event of an overall win was Kipruto crossing the line ahead of all.

Their gamble looked a banker given the presence of Soufiane El Bakkali, the Moroccan whom the Kenya narrowly beat to the world title last summer but it went horribly awry when Europe snatched the overall victory.

All the African plans came to grief as the field approached the line ahead of the first elimination in a race where the last man was scheduled to drop out on each lap after the first three.

Because Evan Jager, the Rio Olympic silver medallist who was due to represent Team Americas, scratched from the race, the first elimination did not occur until the field approached the three laps to go marker.

In his apparent desperation to make the cut, Team Asia’s Japanese runner Kosei Yamaguchi began to stagger with the effort, and appeared to veer into El Bakkali, who was cruising along just ahead of him.

Yamaguchi succeeded in his immediate object as his teammate John Koech was first to be eliminated, but within a few steps El Bakkali, injured, had collapsed onto the infield, requiring to be taken away on a stretcher. The bearers carried away Africa’s hopes of a points bonanza.

Ironically the unhappy loss of El Bakkali meant that no elimination needed to take place at the two-lap marker, so the Japanese athlete was able to struggle along until he accepted his destiny at the bell.

By that point Kipruto, yellow-shirted and in a sunny mood, had turned the final 400m into a lap of honour, exhorting the crowd to up the noise with upward motions of his arms before crossing, miles clear, in 8:22.55 to collect the eight points due to the winner.

“I am always happy to represent my country and especially my continent at international events,” said Kipruto, winner last weekend of the IAAF Diamond League trophy in the event.

“I had enough power in the last 100 metres and I asked the crowd for more support because I love loud tribunes. I love to enjoy every moment as it motivates me to be even better,” he added.

Canada’s Matthew Hughes was second in 8:29.70, but the two remaining runners were from Europe - Yohanes Chiappinelli of Italy, third in 8:32.89, and Fernando Carro of Spain, fourth in 8:33.76. That meant a combined total of 11 points for the huge upset.

Favourite billing

Korir of Kenya lived up to his billing as favourite in the men’s 800m as he and his Africa team-mate, Nijel Amos of Botswana, ensured overall victory in finishing first and third.

Korir, who clocked the fastest time of the season so far, 1:42.05, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London on July 22 and took the IAAF Diamond League title in Brussels on August 31, won in 1:46.50, but he was pushed to the line by Team Americas’ Clayton Murphy.

The United States runner, bronze medallist at the Rio 2016 Games, took second place in 1:46.77, with London 2012 silver medallist Amos - who has a best of 1:42.14 this year – being given the same time as the American but finishing three thousandths of a second slower according to the photo-finish.

“It did not feel weird to work with Nijel as a team member because we are friends, and we both want to bring the trophy to Team Africa.

“I had fun here because it was my last championship of the season and it was an entertaining one,” Korir gushed.

“I was fighting until the last metres with Clayton, and did not want to give it up to Americas,” the Kenyan sensation added.

Chebet emerged as the winner in the women's 1500m as the African champion thus became only the second winner from that part of the world in this event in the World/ Continental Cup history after Hassiba Boulmerka in 1994.

Shelby Houlihan of the US was the runner-up for the Americas, as the Moroccan Rababe Arafi completed the podium to give Team Africa maximum points in the team competition.

Chebet took to the front in the early stages and her rivals seemed content to follow her at a leisurely pace, with the opening lap run outside 73 seconds.

The leader and the pace remained constant for another 500 metres, before Houlihan made the first move. She moved into the lead, but not for long.

To the delight of the Ostrava crowd, the Czech Simona Vrzalova put in a burst of speed on the last straight of the penultimate lap to move past everyone.

Vrzalova's lead lasted some 200 metres before she began to fade, while those behind her started to sprint for home.

Once again it was Chebet in the lead, with Houlihan doing the chasing.

The American appeared to close down the gap somewhat in the final metres, but that was not enough.

Chebet emerged victorious with a time of 4:16.01, with her final 300 metres taking just over 42 seconds.

Houlihan reached the line 0.35s later, with Arafi third in 4:17.19. P. Unnikrishnan Chitra of India was the unexpected fourth for Asia-Pacific, while Vrzalova ended up sixth and the Pole Sofia Ennaoui, one of the pre-event favourites, a distant seventh.

Points shared

A Championship record of 8:27.58 in the women’s 3000 by Hassan helped Europe to share the overall points with Team Africa in an event where the latter had played their women’s joker for the day.

Africa’s Senbere Teferi and world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri took second and third place, in a personal best of 8:32.49 and 8:36.20 respectively, and with Europe’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who finished in 8:38.04, being the other remaining runner once the four rounds of eliminations had taken place, it meant both teams totalled 13 in terms of individual points.

Neither team was able to claim the eight points on offer to outright winners in each event – each scored seven points. And while Africa was able to double this up to 14 thanks to their joker, it was two points less than they had anticipated.

That was down to an inspired display by Hassan, winner of the European 5000m title in Berlin last month, who is, by her own account, running with a new sense of confidence this season.

That showed as she moved purposefully up towards the bell, establishing a five metres lead by the time it rang, extending that to 10 on the back straight, and stretching it to 20 metres and more around the final bend.

It was a glorious final flourish to her season, and a significant reverse against Obiri, who beat her to the IAAF Diamond League 5000m title after a pulverising sprint finish.

Unlike the men’s 3000m steeplechase, the eliminations here worked without upset or alarm, as out in order went the Team Americas runners Muriel Coneo and Lauren Paquette, and then Team Asia-Pacific’s Nozomi Tanaka and Genevieve Lacaze.

-Material from www.iaaf.org used to compile this report

SELECTED RESULTS

Men 800m

1. Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir   (Africa) KEN 1:46.50

2. Clayton Murphy (Americas) USA 1:46.77

3. Nijel Amos (Africa) BOT 1:46.77

Women 3000m

1. Sifan Hassan (Europe) NED 8:27.50

2. Senbere Teferi (Africa) ETH 8:32.49

3. Hellen Obiri  (Africa) KEN 8:36.20

Men 3000m steeplechase

1. Conseslus Kipruto  (Africa) KEN 8:22.55

2. Matthew Hughes (Americas) CAN 8:29.70

3. Yohanes Chiappinelli (Europe) ITA 8:32.89