Jepkemei propelled around the track, hurdles and water barrier in a massive career best of 9:47.22 to trump her own previous world lead of 9:56.33 ran at the semis as she powered away from Ethiopian Tejinesh Gebisa to force the second medal down her throat.
Gebisa, another star of the women steeple show in Barcelona had set the trailblazing 10:01.48 in the first semi and was similarly rewarded with a huge PB of 9:50.51 as Stella Ruto won the third medal in 9:50.58, also a lifetime best to underline Kenya’s dominance of the steeple at any level of competition.
Apart from the opening 750m when the USA’s Brianna Nerud took command of the race, Jepkemei stamped her authority in style as she moved to the front entering the third lap and was never headed.
The 1000m point was hit in 3:17.11 with Gebisa closest to the Kenyan followed and still nine women were in close contention.
Lap by lap Jepkemei stepped up the rhythm to whittled down the main group gradually; by halfway, Jepkemei led with Gebisa on her shoulders and another five athletes stretched out over 40m in single-file including Ruto, Russia’s Evdokiya Bukina, Germany’s Maya Rehberg, Finland’s Oona Kettunen and the early leader Nerud.
The leading duo reached the second kilometre in 6:32.81 for a 3:15.70 split which proved to be too brisk for Kettunen and Nerud who lost ground and any chances of podium while Jepkemei and Gebisa had built a sizeable advantage on Ruto, Bukina and Rehberg.
With 600 remaining two fierce battles were on the cards, Jepkemei-Gebisa for the title and Ruto-Bukina for the bronze medal.
By the bell Jepkemei had built a 10m advantage on the Ethiopian while Ruto travelled 30m behind Gebisa but herself another 10m clear of the Russian.
Jepkemei opened full gas throughout the closing lap to virtually secure the gold medal still on the home stretch but the big news came when Ruto began to threaten Gebisa’s second place.
Looking for a 1-2 for Kenya, Ruto caught her rival exactly over the last water jump but Gebisa immediately reacted trying to defend the silver medal position.
At the tape, Jepkemei was an unrivalled winner in 9:47.22 while Gebisa finally held off the strong challenge provided by Ruto after a thrilling finish sprint, their respective times being 9:50.51 and 9:50.58, both PBs.
Both Bukina (fourth in 9:56.46) and Nerud (fifth in 10:00.72) set respective National records.
It’s also worth mentioning that both 16-year-old Jepkemei and Ruto contested in Barcelona only their second and third ever steeplechase race.
In the men 1500m final, Hillary Ngetich surrendered the initiative as Qatar’s Hamza Driouch planned his finish to perfection to achieve the first ever gold medal for his country.
Ngetich took silver in a personal best of 3:40.39 behind the out right winner’s 3:39.04 while the incredibly fast-finishing Moroccan Abdelhadi Labali bagged bronze timed at 3:40.60. The second Kenyan finalist, Dominic Mutuku (3:42.79) was fifth.
Ngetich was the early leader but the initial pace was quite slow, the Kenyan reaching the 400m in 1:01.60 in what seemed a typical cagey affair but Driouch had different thoughts and just before the 700m mark he moved to the front to inject a much brisker rhythm which led the rest of the pack to chase him in crocodile file.
Driouch’s change of speed was so lethal that by the 1000m point only the two Kenyans, Ngetich and Dominic Mutili and Ethiopia’s Teshome Dirirsa could live with his pace.
The Qatari star cruised through the bell in 2:43.10 with Ngetich still in hot pursuit but Driouch broke away from the Kenyan with awesome easiness over the closing lap. Once it became clear Driouch and Ngetich would take gold and silver, attention turned to the fierce battle for the bronze medal.
Kenya are second to Ethiopia on the overall medal standings with each having two gold medals but archrivals have three silver to two that is the difference in ranking. Kenya has won three bronze medals to Ethiopia’s none.