Milcah Chemos in the womens 3000m SC at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Moscow, Russia

Report: Women’s 3000m Steeplechase final – Moscow 2013

One of the curious anomalies in World Championship history prior to Moscow was that no Kenyan woman had ever landed this title. Not anymore.

In a textbook demonstration of steeplechasing, Milcah Chemos, after a number of championship disappointments, controlled the race from the front to clinch top spot in a world-leading mark of 9:11.65.

Fellow Kenyan Lydia Chepkurui, who had opted to tuck behind Chemos for much of the race, claimed a deserved silver in a personal best 9:12.55.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian record-holder Sofia Assefa produced the gutsiest of bronze medal performances by recovering from a fall on the beginning of the penultimate lap to bravely drag herself from the surface of the track on to the medal podium.

Assefa might have earned much of the post-race attention for her heroics, but no one could deny Chemos’s day in the sun. For so long dominant on the Diamond League circuit, she so often faltered at the major championships when expected to win.

A bronze medallist in this event at each of the past two World Championships and a fourth-place finisher at the London Olympic Games, many wondered if the diminutive Kenyan would ever prosper on the biggest stage.

Fifteen woman lined up down the home stretch for the start of a women's 3000m Steeplechase which was shamelessly a sideshow for much of the crowd enthralled by a captivating Pole Vault competition starring home favourite Yelena Isinbayeva which was reaching a riveting finale.

The three Kenyan and three Ethiopian athletes were expected to dominate, but perhaps we could not have expected them to take control quite so quickly as Hiwot Ayalew set off with vigour at the head of the pack and the east African half dozen forged a 10-metre lead on the rest after a little over one lap.

Ayalew, the 2013 World Cross Country silver medallist, led the top six through the first kilometre in 3:01.72 from Chemos, Etenesh Diro, the third Ethiopian, Assefa, Chepkurui and her compatriot Hyvin Jepkemoi.

It was this point that Chemos, with her familiar head-bobbing and wide arm action, could wait no longer and she eased on the gas, happy to control proceedings from the front.

A slower second kilometre of the race was covered in 3:09.64 and the five athletes behind flip-flopped position with frequency but all appeared reluctant to attack the 27-year-old Chemos, despite the reduction in pace.

Jepkemoi was the first athlete to fall out of medal contention, and then at the barrier on the beginning of the back straight on the penultimate lap, the-well placed Assefa came to grief. The crowd gasped at the heavy fall but the pugnacious 25-year-old bounced straight back off the floor having conceded 20 metres on the leaders.

Diro was next to be dropped off the lead pack and at the bell it was the dogged Chemos a couple of metres clear of Chepkurui with Ayalew in third. Assefa meanwhile was gradually making inroads in fifth.

Chemos, who by now was increasing her stride rate, had taken Chepkurui with her and the battle for gold appeared set to be an all-Kenyan affair. By the back straight Assefa had caught and passed Ayalew and suddenly an improbable medal looked a possibility.

Rounding the final bend, the heroic Ethiopian continued to close on the lead two with Chemos for the first time starting to look heavy legged. Fleetingly, it looked possible that Assefa could claim the most dramatic of World Championship gold medals.

However, off the final barrier Chemos found an extra gear and sprinted away to victory with Chepkurui also repelling Assefa who, understandably, looked slightly leaden-footed coming off the final barrier.

The Ethiopian still managed a season's best of 9:12.84 for bronze with her countrywomen Ayalew (9:15.25) and Diro (9:16.97) also registering their quickest performances in 2013 in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Jepkemei in sixth set a personal best of 9:22.05 with the first non-African Valentyna Zhudina, the Ukrainian record-holder, back in seventh (9:33.73).

Chemos' victory also brought an end to Russia's winning streak in the event spanning the previous three editions of the World Championships. The host’s solitary finalist in Moscow, Natalya Gorchakova, finished tenth – albeit in a personal best 9:38.57.

Steve Landells for the IAAF