Ezekiel Kemboi fulfilled his reputation as the king of the 3000m Steeplechase by winning his third World title in a row, holding off his compatriot and reigning World junior champion Conselus Kipruto in a dramatic sprint finish in 8:06.01.
With his achievement, Kemboi equalled the feat of his coach Moses Kiptanui as a three-time World champion in his discipline.
The flamboyant Kemboi, now 31, crowned another impressive season in which he is also the only man to run under eight minutes with his time of 7:59.03 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris.
“I started with silver in Paris (in 2003), then I won two more silvers in Helsinki 2005 and Osaka 2007. In 2009 I graduated to gold in Berlin before winning again in Daegu 2011 and now in Moscow 2013 I am the king. I say thank you to Moscow. I ran a lap of honour as a sign of respect for the city which is hosting the World Championship,” said a delighted Kemboi, giving a quick resume of his career to the massed media in Moscow.
Kipruto tried to force the pace at the beginning of the final in the attempt to win his first senior gold medal, and emulate the Grenadian 400m runner Kirani James by going through the ranks as a World champion in successive years after winning at the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2011 and as then as a junior last year.
He revealed that the Kenyan runners had worked as a team to make the race fast. “It was a plan to go in the front in the first kilometre before leaving the initiative to Paul Kipsiele Koech in the second kilometre," said Kipruto.
Kipruto was so disappointed after the race that he didn’t want to speak but at the press conference he congratulated Kemboi on his third World title. “First congratulations to Ezekiel. I was disappointed at first but I appreciate that I got to the silver medal while still a junior athlete," said Kipruto.
Kemboi was defeated twice this year by Kipruto at the Diamond League meetings in Eugene and Oslo in early June but this time Kemboi proved that his experience in this kind of event was a major factor.
“Kenya worked as a team but at the end it was a championship race and everybody wants to win," said the gold medallist.
Kemboi has also become famous for his exuberent celebrations. As a former DJ, he made the headlines for his dancing in Daegu two years ago. “I enjoy listening to music, going to parties and concerts. I was a DJ at school parties.”
As was the case in London last year, he again sported a Mohican-style haircut. “It was good to have the same hairstyle as at the Olympics.”
Kemboi’s original plans to pursue a Marathon career may now be postponed following his triumph at the Luzhniki Stadium.
“I wanted to start training for the Marathon but my coach Moses Kiptanui and my manager Enrico Dionisi told me that I was still strong in the 3000m steeplechase and insisted that I continue to run on the track," said Kemboi.
He hails from a family of farmers and has six brothers and sisters. His first sport love was football, where he played as a midfielder, before starting to run on his own after leaving school. He was contacted by former 800m Olympic champion Paul Ereng after winning a local race and Ereng became his first coach.
He soon decided to focused on Steeplechase to emulate his role model Moses Kiptanui who coincidentally who would become his coach later in his career.
His professional career started more than a decade ago. Kemboi wrote to several European managers in April 2001 but only Dionisi replied, and the Italian has been his manager ever since.
He won his first international medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, where he took the silver and subsequently named his first son after the host city Manchester.
He has a strong relationship with Dionisi and the beautiful Italian town of Siena has become his adopted home, where he lives and trains during the athletics season.
“I enjoy living in Siena. It’s my second home. I live Italian people and Italian food. I have a lot of friends there. I enjoy going out for dinner and watching football matches of the local Siena football team,” said Kemboi.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF