Soufiane El Bakkali ends Kenyan steeplechase dominance

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Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games

23 July – 8 August 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games wrapped up this past weekend, bringing to an end over two weeks of world-class sporting action from a huge variety of disciplines in Japan’s capital city. We take a closer look at some of the more fascinating triumphs of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

An event which seemed destined to be dominated by one nation was the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase, a race which has been won by a Kenyan at every Games since 1984 (and would have stretched unbroken as far back as 1968 had the East African nation not boycotted the ‘78 and ‘80 Olympics). However, Tokyo 2020 provided a different story, as Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali ended Kenya’s hegemony.

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The 25-year-old, who won world silver in 2017 and bronze two years ago in Doha, produced the fastest closing kilometre ever seen in an Olympic steeplechase final – 2:32.4 – as he overtook Lamecha Girma midway through the final lap and strode to the finish line, clocking 8:08.90.

The Ethiopian world silver medallist, who had set the pace for most of the battle, was second in 8:10.38 while Kenyan Benjamin Kigen landed bronze with 8:11.45 and pre-race favourite Getnet Wale finished fourth in 8:14.97.

“I am so used to seeing Kenyans win, it’s a big accomplishment for me,” said El Bakkali, who picked up Morocco’s first Gold in the event. “I have been aiming for this for years and this was my opportunity to show that Morocco is capable of winning this prize in front of the Kenyans.

“It was not easy for me to be in front of the Kenyans and Ethiopians. I have been thinking about being more confident, working on my self-confidence and also trusting that I can win. I have tried so many times to compare myself with the Kenyans and Ethiopians to see whether I could reach this gold, and I did.”

Final Medal Table, top five

1 – United States – 39 Gold – 41 Silver – 33 Bronze – 113 total
2 – China – 38 Gold – 32 Silver – 18 Bronze – 88 total
3 – Japan – 27 Gold – 14 Silver – 17 Bronze – 58 total
4 – Great Britain – 22 Gold – 21 Silver – 22 Bronze – 65 total
5 – R.O.C. (Russia) – 20 Gold – 28 Silver – 23 Bronze – 71 total


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Published: 08/12/2021