Ezekiel Kemboi laid claim to being the greatest steeplechaser of all time on Thursday as the extrovert Kenyan won a record-equaling third 3,000m steeplechase world title at the World Athletics Championships.
The 31-year-old two-time Olympic champion — sporting a new Mohican hairstyle and who danced stylishly in celebration — equaled compatriot Moses Kiptanui’s record as he coasted to victory.
“It’s good to be the king,” the never shy 31-year-old said.
Kemboi, who also has three world silvers, could well win a record fourth in two years’ time, but the all-time record haul of world titles in all events will be beyond him.
That record of eight is at risk of falling as US sprint queen Allyson Felix — who has three 200m gold and five relay titles — looked sublime in cruising into the 200m final.
Should she prevail in yesterday’s final she would move one ahead of joint-holders, and now retired, compatriots Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis.
However, she has been promised a real fight.
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, fresh from regaining her 100m crown declared she was the best, but she will have to improve considerably after being outclassed by the 27-year-old US athlete in the Olympic final last year.
While Kemboi and Felix’s hopes of medal records remain very much alive, those of the Dominican Republic’s 400m hurdling great Felix Sanchez look to be in tatters as he never threatened to become the first man to win three golds in the event.
Now 35, the two-time Olympic champion did not sound like a man, even with his deep reserves of self-belief, confident he could line up in Beijing in 2015.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I need to think about it. There’s still two long years ahead.”
Despite the final being packed with veterans, it was 21-year-old Jehue Gordon who won gold in a thrilling finish, with the US’ Michael Tinsley having to add this silver to his Olympic one.
Gordon’s gold was only Trinidad and Tobago’s second-ever world title — Ato Boldon having won 200m gold in 1997.
“The victory will change my life, but not me as a person,” Gordon said.
The championships have yet to see a world record fall, but Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko at least gave the noisy young fans from his country a reward with gold in the high jump with 2.41m.
He then had a tilt at the world record, but Cuban legend Javier Sotomayor’s 20-year-old mark of 2.45m refused to fall.
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Bondarenko vowed it would one day soon.
“I was fighting with the bar, not with my rivals,” Bondarenko said, explaining he had been partly forced into what he called “adventurism” by a foot injury which prevented him from jumping as much as he might have liked in the competition.
“I knew I had to jump high and I did it. I’m sure I’m capable of setting the new world record sooner or later and I hope it will be pretty soon,” he said.
Bondarenko looks set to dominate his event for years to come and the same might well be true of Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen, who gave her country their first-ever world title in the women’s triple jump.
“I am so proud to make history for my country, it means a lot to me and to Colombia,” the 29-year-old Olympic silver medalist said.