A fascinating battle of the generations looks set to light up an intriguing men’s 3000m Steeplechase in Moscow.
The brilliant Ezekiel Kemboi has dominated the event for the best part of a decade and is seeking to match the accomplishments of Moses Kiptanui and secure a hat-trick of World titles following his successes in Berlin and Daegu, respectively.
Kemboi, 31, is also a two-time Olympic champion and should he climb the podium in the Russian capital it will be his sixth straight medal at a World Championships after the Kenyan also claimed successive steeplechase silver medals at the 2003, 2005 and 2007 editions.
His exuberant post-race celebratory dance routines have become a familiar sight at major championships and after setting a world-leading time of 7:59.03 in Paris he will be confident of making it three in a row in the Luzhniki Stadium.
For all this outstanding pedigree, Kemboi will face a strong challenge from his countryman and rising teenage talent Conseslus Kipruto.
Some 13 years Kemboi’s junior, the 2011 World youth and 2012 World junior champion has made a major breakthrough into the senior ranks this season. He is unbeaten in five Steeplechase races, including three IAAF Diamond League victories and he has also, significantly, twice beaten Kemboi, in Oslo and Nairobi.
Kenya’s enviable strength in depth in this event is further bolstered by the presence of Paul Kipsiele Koech, the third-fastest steeplechaser in history.
Koech, 31, won Olympic bronze in 2004, but despite recording nine sub-eight minute times in his career, he has often missed out on selection for the major championships. He will be desperate to seize a rare chance in Moscow.
Completing the outstanding Kenyan quartet is the London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist and African champion Abel Mutai, who finished second at the world-class Kenyan trials.
The man best placed to stop what would be a third Kenyan clean sweep in the history of the World Championships, after s men’s Steeplechase 1-2-3 in 1997 and 2007, will be France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad.
The 28-year-old French steeplechaser has repeatedly shown an ability to mix it with the best Kenyans as his record as a two-time Olympic silver medallist and 2011 World bronze medal winner shows. He also comes into the Russian capital confident he is in the form of his life after posting a European record of 8:00.09 for a close second place behind Kemboi in Paris.
Of the chasing pack, US record holder Evan Jager, who placed sixth in London, has the quality to feature with a season’s best time of 8:08.60.
Meanwhile, Robi Gari, the Ethiopian record holder who placed fourth at last summer’s Olympic Games, should be respected. The 31-year-old is a consistent international performer as evidenced by sixth and fifth place finishes at the Berlin and Daegu World Championships, respectively.
Mekhissi-Benabbad’s team-mate Yoann Kowal, a former European indoor 1500m bronze medallist, set a big personal best of 8:12.53 in Rabat in June and could also be prominent. Another danger could be Turkey’s Kenyan-born Tarik Langat Akday, winner of the European Team Championship in June, who boasts a lifetime best of 8:08.59.
Other names to look out for include Morocco’s Olympic Games seventh placer Hamid Ezzine, the Ugandan duo Benjamin Kiplagat and Jacob Araptany and Tunisia’s Amor Ben Yahia.
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Steve Landells for the IAAF