JapanMorocco’s Soufiane el-Bakkali is the first athlete not from Kenya to win gold in the 3000m hurdles since 1980.
In the final competition on the evening of August 2, El-Bakkali finished first with a record of 8 minutes 8 seconds 90 in heavy rain pouring down the Olympic Stadium, Sapporo. Ethiopian Lamecha Girma won the silver medal with 8 minutes 10 ten 38, while the bronze medal went to Kenyan runner Benjamin Kigen with 8 minutes 11 seconds 45.
Like the women’s 5000m competition a few minutes later, El-Bakkali also used the strategy of hiding from the wind, keeping strength for most of the distance. This Morocco runner only reached the top 4 at the 2,300 meter mark, then gradually accelerated to enter the medal dispute group. At 2800 meters, El-Bakkali was still second, behind Girma, but struggled to take the lead in the last 120 meters.
The Olympic gold medal in Tokyo 2020 is the first major title in El-Bakkali’s career. The 25-year-old athlete finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning a silver medal at the 2017 national championship and a bronze medal at the 2019 national championship.
Not only that, the Moroccan runner also made history when he became the first athlete not from Kenya to win a gold medal in the men’s 3000m obstacle course after 41 years. The closest person to do that was Polish athlete Bronisław Malinowski at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Kenya has dominated the men’s 3000m hurdles since 1968, winning gold in every Olympics except Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980 – two tournaments they boycotted.
Conseslus Kipruto, Kenya’s number one star, 2017 and 2019 world champion, failed to defend his gold medal when he failed to compete in Kenya’s athletics selection and failed to make it to Tokyo 2020.
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