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El-Bakkali ends Kenyan reign with steeplechase gold

Olympic champion Soufiane El-Bakkali of Morocco has produced a tactical masterclass to end Kenya’s 15-year reign in the 3000 meters steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, United States.

El-Bakkali took his time before surging into the lead with just under 200 meters to go at Eugene’s Hayward Field, with a lethal late kick after the final water jump powering him to Gold in a time of 8min 25.13sec.

Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma silver medalist behind El-Bakkali at last year’s Tokyo Olympics was second in 8:26.01.

Kenya’s reigning world champion Conseslus Kipruto settled for the Bronze in 8:27.92.

El-Bakkali’s masterpiece was almost a carbon copy of last year’s Olympic final, when the Moroccan again conjured a devastating late kick in the final 200m to surge to Gold.

Natably, El-Bakkali’s victory brought an end to Kenya’s 15-year dominance of the steeplechase at the world championships.

Kenyan runners had won gold in the event in every edition of the championships since Brimin Kipruto’s Gold in Osaka in 2007.

It was a happy return to Eugene for El-Bakkali, who got his first taste of international competition at Hayward Field in 2014 when he competed in the World Under-20 Championships.

“That was my first international experience. I return eight years later as a champion,” El-Bakkali said.

El-Bakkali said the course was very tactical, slow while he positioned very strong in the last lap in the 400m race.

Reporting by Saadatu Albashir; editing by Adeniyi Bakare