NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 15 – World champion Hyvin Kiyeng had to content for silver at the Rio Olympics after Bahrain’s Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet produced an astonishing piece of front running to win gold in the women’s 3000m steeplechase on Monday.
Jebet timed an Asian record of 8:59.75, missing out on the world record by less than a second.
Kiyeng of Kenya took silver in 9:07.12, with American Emma Coburn claiming bronze (9:07.63).
Reigning world champion Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya took silver in 9:07.12, with American Emma Coburn claiming bronze (9:07.63).
“I’m happy to be a gold medallist, it was my first attempt to have a medal and I’m happy,” said Jebet.
“Today it was too hot for the athletes, it was not easy to run a good time but I tried my best and the track is good.
“Yesterday I saw the new record in the 400m (by Wayde van Niekerk) and in the 10,000m also a new world record so I thought why not a world record for me.”
Chebet said Bahraini team officials had been confident she could medal.
“It’s the first gold medal for Bahrain,” she said.
“They saw how I ran in the Diamond League and how I did there, and they told me when I was coming that ‘we’re sure of you, you’re going to have a medal’.”
US champion Coburn set the early pace before Jebet, who transferred her allegiance to Bahrain from her native Kenya in February 2013, surged with five laps to run of the seven-and-a-half lap race.
As temperatures hit 35 degrees Celsius (95F), her pace immediately split the field, Jepkemoi and fellow Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech just about staying in touch, with Coburn in fourth.
Jebet, the former world junior champion who is the second-fastest woman ever and only the second to run the event in less than nine minutes, maintained her punishing pace as the bell rang for the final lap.
Chepkoech fell off as Coburn moved up in her own battle for silver with Jepkemoi.
Ahead of them, Jebet pushed for Russian Gulnara Galkina’s world record of 8:58.81, just failing in her quest as she landed the Gulf state of Bahrain its first Olympic gold.
Bahrain’s Morocco-born Rashid Ramzi was initially awarded gold in the men’s 1500m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but he was stripped of that after testing positive for doping.
Silver medallist Jepkemoi was left delighted after the testing run.
“I am so happy,” she said. “I never thought this would be a reality.
“The last two laps were really hard. I just tried to stay strong and see if I could catch her. I hate looking back during races and I resisted doing that.”
Coburn’s day was also a special one as she became the first American to medal in the 3000m steeplechase.
“The last four or five laps were tough. I just kept on telling myself to keep on chipping away at the gap and once I got my position, all I wanted was to hold it,” Coburn said.
“It wasn’t until the last 400 or 600 metres when I realised that I had it and just couldn’t lose it.”