Kenyan-born and bred Ruth Jebet gave the women’s 3000m steeplechase world record a scare, coming within a second, running 8:59.75 to give her adopted country Bahrain gold.
As it was, the race played out perfectly to form as Jebet, Hyvin Kiyeng and Emma Coburn finished in exactly the order they stood on the 2016 world list coming in.
Jebet’s 8:59.75 was less than a second from the 8:58.81 set by Gulnara Galkina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and, as a PB and Asian record for Jebet, is the second-fastest 3000m steeplechase ever for women, improving her previous best of 8:59.97.
The race got underway only on the second attempt, after the relative oddity of a false start.
Jebet broke away from the pack after the first kilometre and pushed hard for the remainder of the race. Early leaders Kiyeng of Kenya and Coburn of the USA tried to stick to Jebet when she initially moved to the front but didn’t succeed for long.
The potential for Jebet to improve further is clear, as the first kilometre split was a pedestrian 3:05.93 after the first lap was covered at a near-walking pace. Jebet’s change of pace led to the second kilometre being a full 10 seconds faster, the fastest of the race at 2:54.13 (6:00.03).
Jebet wasn’t able to sustain quite that pace, although it hardly mattered by then. Her third kilometre of 2:59.69 included Jebet allowing her own effort to slacken once she had cleared the final barrier, either through fatigue or relief. The clock stood at 7:49.0 at the bell, so Jebet’s closing circuit of 1:10.7 was still quicker than the overall kilometre pace.
Some drama played out behind her as the Kenyan duo of Kiyeng and Beatrice Chepkoech initially seemed to have a lock on the remaining medals. But Chepkoech may have been in over her head (she would finish with a PB) and couldn’t hold on to Kiyeng’s pace.
As Chepkoech slipped back, she was overtaken by Coburn with two laps remaining. Coburn worked her way up to challenge Kiyeng on the last lap, but Kiyeng was the stronger of the two and held on for silver in 9:07.12.
Coburn’s bronze medal clocking of 9:07.63 is a North American record, bettering her own mark.
Chepkoech would also run a PB 9:16.05 for fourth. In sixth, world bronze medallist Gesa Krause ran a German record of 9:18.41. In all, seven of the top nine women would run PBs; the exceptions were Kiyeng and fifth-place finisher Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia.
Tunisia’s 2012 Olympic champion Habiba Ghribi finished 12th and was never a factor in the race – IAAF