BERLIN, August 18 – They say if you fail, then try and try again until you succeed.
Three times he tried and each time he came off second best.
But on a cloudy night in Berlin on Tuesday night, Ezekiel Kemboi Yano finally landed the big one winning the 3,000 metres steeplechase gold medal at the 12th World Athletics Championships in a championships record time of 8:00.43.
His celebrations at the end told it all, as he stripped off his vest, pumped his hands in triumph before collapsing on the track and kneeling down in prayer. A jig with silver medallist winner Richard Mateelong summed up the27 year old’s delight at finally coming up trumps.
“It’s my time to celebrate, that is why went to dance with Mateelong. After three silvers in a row in 2003, 2005, 2007 at the World championships and now I have won gold and am a great man,” said Kemboi.
And boy did he deserve it.
In 2003, a young Kemboi gave it his all but could not stop the Kenyan born Qatari Saif Said Shaheen.
In Helsinki two years later, The Marakwet born athlete engaged Shaheen in a titanic battle in thrilling race but again fell short having to settle for silver again.
Two years ago in Osaka, he played second fiddle to Olympic Champion Brimin Kipruto.
But not on Tuesday.
Ever the free spirited lad in the Kenyan camp, he pulled off his first surprise by spotting a new haircut inspired by a German friend.
“I wanted to be different from the rest. A friend of mine from Germany gave me this design and he told me in the morning that if I got my hair like this I would win.”
He swiftly moved into the lead after first lap with Paul Kipsiele Koech joining him as they set about winning Kenya’s speciality.
The duo kept the pace going for the next few laps and with four to go, Kipsiele upped the tempo again.
This burst separated the men from the boys and the leading pack was reduced to five – Kemboi, Kipsiele, Mateelong, reigning world champion Brimin Kipruto and Frenchman Bouabdellah Tahri.
It continued this way until the penultimate lap when Kipruto was dropped behind unable to keep up with the relentless pace.
Kemboi moved for the kill at the bell before accelerating away on the back straight, a clean clearance at the water jump increased his lead going on to win in a new championship record.
“I am delighted to win, the race was very tough. To run 8:00 was very hard and even Mateelong set a new personal best. We had to have our tactics in place and we succeeded. If we hadn’t done that then we would have lost it,” he added.
Behind him Mateelong upgraded on his bronze in Osaka two years ago winning silver.
“I have not only won silver, but I have improved my personal best. I wanted gold but it went to Kenya and my friend got it so am happy. We were really worried about this French guy because he was looking really strong in the heats and has run 8:02 so we worked hard to eliminate him though he got away with bronze,” said Mateelong.
Kipsiele Koech had to settle for fourth –edged out by Tahri while Kipruto came in a poor seventh in 8:12.61.
It was not quite the 1-2-3 that Kemboi had led in Athens in 2004 that catapulted him to the public limelight but a personal triumph of an athlete who had kept the good fight and reasserted himself as the top steeplechaser.
This season has had a different ring to it for Kemboi. A poor attempt at defending his Olympic title in Beijing marked one of his lowest ebbs last year. But he returned with a bang in May this year shocking all and sundry with a 7:58.85 to win at the Doha Grand prix.
Tuesday’s win completes an impressive roll of honours for Kemboi who has now won every major crown on offer having also clinched the 2004 Olympic gold, Commonwealth title in 2002 and All Africa Games in 2007.
It is no surprise then for him to state that he has had enough of the steeplechase and will move up to marathon.
“In the next two years I will move up to marathon. I have run steeplechase for eight years and I think I need to change because what I was missing was gold and now I have got it.”
Before he makes that decision he will have to consult his coach Moses Kiptanui. Considered Kenya’s best steeplechaser of all time, Kiptanui played a huge role in Kemboi’s win.
“He has really improved my technique on how to jump and also on how to control my race. When to cruise and when to turn on the heat,” he explained.
In the build up to the final, Kiptanui had given express instructions, “he told me to ensure that I stayed first or second throughout the race and told me exactly when to attack.”
And boy did he listen to him.