28 JUL 2012 Preview

Men's 3000 Metres Steeplechase - PREVIEW

Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya won gold medal in the men's 3000 metres steeplechase final during day six  (Getty Images)Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya won gold medal in the men's 3000 metres steeplechase final during day six (Getty Images) © Copyright
One of the rarest sights in athletics is a 3000m Steeplechase victory podium not topped by a Kenyan. That’s certainly been the case since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles when Kenya began its current seven Olympiad streak. There is little to suggest that it won’t be extended to eight after the final on 5 August.

Leading the Kenyan charge are veterans Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto, the former the reigning World champion and the latter the defending Olympic champion. But that’s hardly where their superlatives end.

Kemboi, 30, whose victory prance in Daegu likely inspired dance moves in Nairobi and Mombasa, took the Olympic title in 2004, his first World title in 2009 and three successive World silver medals beginning in 2003. Kipruto, 29, finished second to Kemboi in Daegu last year, won the World title in 2007 and took Olympic silver in 2004.

This season to date, Kipruto has illustrated better form, winning the notoriously difficult Kenyan trials at altitude in Nairobi and clocking 8:01.73 for second in Paris. Kemboi, second at the trials, has an 8:11.55 season's best from Rome, his only other appearance this season. His absence however shouldn't suggest that he won't be ready in London.

Faster than both in the youngest of the trio, Abel Mutai, who was third at the trials roughly three weeks after clocking a personal best 8:01.67 for second in Rome. At 23 he's much less experienced than his teammates, but did collect an important win at the African championships in Porto Novo.

Kenya swept the Olympic podium in 1992 and 2004; even minus Paul Kipsiele Koech the world leader and season’s finest steepler, there aren’t too many who appear prepared to keep the east African powerhouse from a third triple medal haul.

Four years ago in Beijing it was Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad who foiled a Kenyan 1-2. The 27-year-old, who raced to Bronze in Daegu last year, hasn't raced since winning a second successive European title in late June, but he does have a pair of sub-8:11 performances to his credit.

After three straight World Championship final appearances - he was fifth in Daegu - Ethiopian veteran Roba Gari could be a factor. His best outing came in the Samsung Diamond League opener in Doha where he finished third after improving his own national record by more than three seconds to 8:06.16.

The Monaco leg of the Diamond League saw the emergence of another medal threat in the guise of 23-year-old Evan Jager. Confidently running a strong final lap the U.S. trials winner finished third with an 8:06.81 national record. He's raced the event just five times, reasonably suggesting that there is further room for improvement.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF