The men’s 3000m Steeplechase field at the 39th Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on 1 June, an IAAF Diamond League meeting, will include all three London 2012 Olympic Games medallists, as well as seven of the top 10 fastest men last year.
The Prefontaine Classic race will include the two men who currently can claim to be the two best steeplechasers and they both, of course, come from Kenya, the home of every Olympic gold medallist for the past 28 years.
One is king of the Diamond League, having won all three previous Diamond Race titles, while the other has claimed the lion’s share of major gold medals in recent memory: Paul Koech and Ezekiel Kemboi.
Koech and Kemboi have dramatically different world class resumes.
The former is the only 3000m Steeplechase Diamond Race winner, has a plethora of fast times to his name including scaring the World record with a 7:54.31 run in Rome last year, yet he owns only one major championship medal, the bronze medal from the 2004 Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, Kemboi has seven medals from global contests, and won at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games as well as the 2009 and 2011 IAAF World Championships.
The two, who will both be 31 when they compete in Eugene, have battled no less than 48 previous times over the barriers, with Kemboi having the edge after coming home in front of his rival 28 time; with Kemboi having won 20 of the races themselves, to Koech’s 10.
At the other end of the age spectrum in Eugene is Kenya’s prodigious 18-year-old Conseslus Kipruto.
Kipruto won the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in a Championships record, after taking the 2000m Steeplechase gold medal at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships. His best of 8:03.49, which he ran in Monaco last year, is the fastest ever by an 18-year-old.
The two other London medallists in the loaded Pre Classic field are France’s silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad and Kenya’s bronze medallist Abel Mutai, who are both set to race on US soil for the first time.
The presence of US record holder Evan Jager is an obvious bright spot for American fans. The University of Wisconsin graduate made his first commitment to running the event last year and shattered a six-year-old US record in only his fifth race over the barriers.
Another American in the race, Donn Cabral, won the NCAA title last year and was the runner-up behind Jager at the Olympic Trials at the same Hayward Field track. Former national champion Dan Huling will also help to bolster the American presence.
An experienced Ethiopian and yet more world-class Kenyans are also confirmed for the Pre Classic field. Ethiopia’s is 31-year-old Roba Gari, who finished just out of the medals in fourth at the Olympics last year, moving up from a fifth place in the 2011 World Championships, will be on the start line against Jairus Birech, who just 20 and was the fifth fastest man in the world last year.
The other Kenyans are Hillary Yego, now 21, who was the 2009 World Youth Championships 2000m Steeplechase gold medallist and Bernard Nganga, who has a best of 8:05.77 from 2011. Even the Kenyan pacemaker, Haron Lagat, a former US university student at Texas Tech, has run 8:15.80.
Organisers for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League Calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep