3000m steeple MEN : EZEKIEL KEMBOI EQUALS THE WORLD CHAMPIONS VICTORIES OF HIS COACH MOSES KIPTANUI
In athletics, always there were athletes able to beat records but never competitive in big Championships, and athletes, on the contrary, who always wanted to chose WCh or Olympic Games for performing their best competitions.
Ezekiel Kemboi, without any doubt, belongs to this second category. His palmarès is unbelievable : in Olympic Games, 2 Gold medals (2004-2012), in World Championships, 3 Gold medals (2009-2011-2013), and 3 silver medals (2003-2005 – 2007).
Ezekiel lived a period of lack of motivation in 2006-2007, when always lost from Saaeed Shaheen. When Shaheen practically had to quit running steeple after a surgery in his knee (January 2008), Ezekiel decided to become very serious in training, in spite of his unconventional behavior, asking Moses Kiptanui to follow him technically. Kiptanui was able to give him right motivation and correct strategies, and Kemboi started a strip of continuous victories, leaving without any hope the other competitors.
This year, a young athlete who won World Junior Championships last year, Conselsus Kipruto, born in 1994, started to grow as personality and continuity, becoming a potential danger for Ezekiel. However, his lack of experience and the superior self confidence of the older champion clearly put him behind Kemboi, already in the previews.
Another athlete who could be very dangerous was the French Mahiedin Mekhissi-Benabbad. Very tall and fast (this year improved his PB in 1500m till 3:33.12), Mekhissi already had good experience in big Championships (2 silver medals in OG 2008-2012, and bronze medal in WCh 2011).
These were the names for the medal, since Paul Koech never was really competitive when there was a medal to win, also if, behind Shaheen, is the athlete who ran more times (9) under 8:00, and Evan Jager doesn’t seem still at the same level of the best Kenyans and Mekhissi.
The race fully respected the previews : Kenyans immediately in front with Conselsus Kipruto at comfortable pace (2:45.94 the 1st Km), Paul Koech going in front after 4 laps (2000m in 5:31.95), always with Ezekiel very relaxed in 3rd position, and Mekhissi and Jager at his shoulders, while Abel Mutai, clearly out of shape, struggled at the end of the group.
The real competition started in the last lap only, when Conselsus and Mekhissi increased the speed with Ezekiel following them very relaxed, while Paul Koech and Jager started to suffer a little. Kemboi changed speed suddenly before the last water jump, and the reaction of Mekhissi and Kipruto was not strong enough for causing anxiety to the defending champion, who slowed down his speed in the last 20m finishing the race in 3rd lane, following a “format” already used in the previous championships.
Probably with this victory Ezekiel puts the final mark on a wonderful career as steeple runner, because Rio is far, and next year there are not important Championships for him, who several times announced his will to move to marathon (something I personally never think can really happen, knowing very well the mentality of Ezekiel in training).
But the new number one is already ready : Conselsus Kipruto showed personality, talent, motivation and ambition for replacing Ezekiel, in the same way Ezekiel replaced Shaheen.
In any case, without any doubt Mekhissi Benabbad, and especially the younger Evan Jaeger, can have more room for some medal, and some chances of victory, looking at Rio, because Ezekiel Kemboi showed to be practically unbeatable during the last 5 years.
Evan Jager is still young (born in 1989), and very new as steeple runner (he started the event last year only). His PB is still 8:06.81 he ran in Monaco on 20th July 2012, but this year was able to improve in every other event : 3:36.34 in 1500m (17th May at Eagle Rock) and 13:14.60 in 5000m (28th April in Stanford), and today was able to run the last km in 2:34.0, showing possible to run very close 8’ in a well paced race, without the pressure of the position.
A special note for the Canadian Matthew Hughes, same age of Jaeger (24 years). Going Moscow with a PB of 8:21.34, he destroyed this time during the heats (8:16.93), and in the final, also thanks to an even pace, finally bettered the National Record with 8:11.64 for a 6th place which put him in the leading group of the top specialists. Interesting athlete, who probably can reach a higher level in the next future.
1500m WOMEN : NO PROBLEM FOR ABEBA
There was only one big favorite in this event : Abeba Aregawi, the Kenyan born runner, now Swedish, who lost OG for a big tactical mistake, and the fall of other athletes in front of her, in a race so slow that everything could happen.
Just for avoiding risks of accidents, Jenny Simpson, defending champion, preferred to go immediately in front, at comfortable pace, in order to control the race, and after 800m Abeba already was with her and Obiri.
These 3 athletes always were the leaders, and clearly all the other competitors suffered psychologically their supremacy.
After splits of 1:05.73 (400m) and 2:13.92 (800m), with a 2nd lap slower than the first (1:08.19), Jenny Simpson continued till 1000m at the same pace, for starting a controlled progression after the first km. Abeba Aregawi went to her side in the turn after the bell, and was already in front at 1200m (3:18.91) with a 3rd lap in 1:04.99, good for launching the final continuous increase of speed in the last 300m.
Never the victory of Abeba was in doubt, since her superiority was very obvious. Same thing about the silver of Jenny Simpson, who showed better tactic than Hellen Obiri.
Only one other athlete could compete for some medal (gold apart) : the young Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a real phenomenon, officially 19 year old (but really she is only 17, because she added two years to her age in 2010 when went for her first passport, in order to be able to compete in World Cross Country Championships 2010 inside the juniors, since was too young according to the IAAF rules…), World Cross Champion in 2011-2013 among juniors,World Youth Champion in 1500m 2011 and World Junior Champion of 1500m last year. She ran already, this year, an amazing 3:56.98 behind Aregawi in Shanghai.
Faith paid the lack of experience, with some important mistake. She was boxed in the middle of the group during the first 800m at slow pace, and after 1000m had to stop running for going outside, almost sprinted for reaching the head, ran all the turn almost in 3rd lane, and in the last 30m paid this waste of energy, and probably the fact she saw no more possible to reach the medal, slowing down till almost walking the last 5 meters, being overtaken by Hannah England for the 4th position (4:04.98 Vs/ 4:05.08).
Aregawi ran the last 300m very smoothly in 44.08, and Simpson in 44.20.
In the final there was another teen-ager very well talented, only 18 at the moment (so still junior next year, for trying to win World Junior Title) : Mary Cain.
She looked better in the heat, when showed good personality believing till the end at the possibility to reach the final, in spite of clear naivety and lack of experience bringing her to do some tactical mistake penalizing her final time.
In the final, may be she felt the pressure, or was not able to have a full recovery from the heat, and never was in the race with the right concentration necessary for a better position.
We have to think this was the first big experience for an athlete who had the possibility to run only one time at top international level.
She has one coach with great knowledge of methodology and strategies indispensable for building a top champion, so her future is assured.
The only problem I see, due to the fact the most part of Americans don’t know anything about the real international athletics, is the pressure they can create around her, speaking of medals, top records and similar things which at the moment can’t be achieved.
This is the best way for destroying the career of young talents, without waiting the normal time for their maturation.
This is what happened for Webb and Ritzenhein, charged of pressure over their current limits.
Too many times people forget that activity in US is not only activity in Colleges, and activity in the full World is not only activity in US.
TOPIC OF THE DAY
The best competition, till now, in this edition of WCh was the High Jump Men of today.
No medal with 2.35, 3 athletes over 2.38 and one over 2.41, Championships record after 20 years.
The first two medals are jumpers with very little muscles : tall and thin, they have little weight to lift, and an incredible reactive strength, due to their stiffness in the complex foot-ankle-tendon-calf, able to produce a very short reaction time at the contact with the ground, with consequently amazing elasticity when they take-off in vertical direction.
The Ukrainian Bogdan Bondarenko is born on 30th August 1989. He’s tall 195cm x 72 kg.
Great talent from very young age, won already the bronze medal in the World Junior Championships 2006, only 17, for becoming World Junior Champion two years later. But for some year didn’t have good training and right motivation, so at the end of last year his Personal Best was still 2.31.
The big change was in this season, in the last month, when suddenly he jumped 2.41 in Lausanne (4th July) and won in London with 2.38 (26th July).
What today impressed was his absolutely unbelievable self confidence. He entered in the competition directly at 2.29 (something nobody did in the World previously), they went directly to 2.35 (1st attempt), for passing 2.38 and trying directly 2.41 (good at his 2nd attempt). At the end, he tried the WR with 2.46, and two attempts were not so bad.
With his 2.41 he clearly showed the possibility to jump higher, so it’s not a dream to think possible some other attack at the WR of Sotomayor (2.45).
But the Qatari Mutar Essa Barshim is not less talented. Born on 24th June 1991, similar like morphology (192 x 70 kg), was the successor of Bondarenko as World Junior Champion in 2010, year of his explosion, when he moved from 2.14 to 2.31.
His progression was more gradual than the progression of Bondarenko : 2.35 in 2011, 2.39 last year in Lausanne and 2.40 this year in Eugene (Prefontaine).
Because of their age and their talent, these two athletes can push again the event at the same level of 25-20 years ago, when not only Sotomayor, but also Sjoberg bettered the WR several times, reaching a level never approached by any other specialist till last year.