NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 15 – Kenya’s power trio of Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto, and Conseslus Kipruto advanced to the Rio Olympics final of the men’s 3000m steeplechase from the three qualifying heats.
Also advancing were France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi, two-time silver medallist in this event, and North American record-holder Evan Jager.
With three runners from each heat plus the next six fastest times advancing, competition for the leading spots was fierce. Once three runners had separated, however, there was no point in scrambling for places, and often the leaders would cross the finish line at a saunter.
USA’s Hillary Bor took the first heat win, but Morocco’s Soufiane Elbakkali and Kemboi – who wandered clear out to the outer lanes after the final barrier – crossed the line with him. Only fourth-placed Matthew Hughes of Canada was able to advance on time from that heat.
Kemboi stayed to the back of his heat through most of the race, moving up into second place with two laps remaining and then sprinting only when necessary to defend his position.
Brimin Kipruto and Jager hovered behind the leaders of the second heat until the final lap, when Jager took over the pace. Kipruto worked up to his shoulder, but Jager kicked away again after the water jump for the heat win.
Mekhissi joined Kipruto on the homestretch to pick up the third qualifying spot. Eritrea’s Yemane Haileselassie, the early leader, and Morocco’s Hamid Ezzine got time qualifying positions in fourth and fifth, respectively. Their marks of 8:26.72 and 8:27.69 were ultimately the slowest times to advance to the final.
Conseslus Kipruto won the third heat in the fastest time of the round, 8:21.40, behind early pacemaking from Morocco’s Hicham Sigueni. Uganda’s Jacob Araptany worked to join him and took second at 8:21.53, with USA’s Donn Cabral making a full set of three US athletes in the final in third.
Half of the time qualifiers also came from this fastest heat, with Tunisia’s Amor ben Yahia and France’s Yoann Kowal both clocking times (8:23.12 and 8:23.49 respectively) faster than the winners of the other two heats. Brazil’s Altobeli da Silva in sixth also advanced. Sigueni in seventh proved the fastest non-qualifier.