Chepkoech smashes steeplechase record

AP and AFP, MONACO

Sun, Jul 22, 2018 - Page 11

Mission accomplished for Beatrice Chepkoech, who on Friday set out to break the 3,000m steeplechase world record and smashed it by more than eight seconds.

Chepkoech clocked 8 minutes, 44.32 seconds at the Herculis Diamond League meeting, becoming the first Kenyan woman to hold the 3,000m steeplechase world record.

The previous mark was 8 minutes, 52.78 seconds set by Ruth Jebet of Bahrain two years ago in Paris.

Chepkoech, who finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics and last year’s world championships, dropped all of her rivals with three laps left and won by more than 16 seconds.

“I wanted to break the world record, that was the plan from the beginning of the season,” she said. “And I was aware the biggest chance would be at Monaco due to weather, crowds and the whole environment, and this plan worked well.”

In Chepkoech’s slipstream, Courtney Frerichs was a distant runner-up, but crossed in 9 minutes, 0.85 seconds to set the US record.

Chepkoech’s feat came just hours after the International Association of Athletics Federations announced that Jebet, the Olympic champion, was among 109 athletes and coaches facing disciplinary action for doping and other offenses.

Earlier, Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas set a world-leading time of 48.97 seconds to win the 400m.

Miller-Uibo, who in May set the previous fastest time in the world this year of 49.52 seconds in Eugene, came off the final turn with a small lead over 20-year-old Bahrain runner Salwa Eid Naser and held over the final section to set a new meet record in the Principality.

In the 800m, Caster Semenya extended her winning streak to 38 races, getting ever closer to Jarmila Kratochvilova’s world record, but she is under increasing pressure to produce the goods, given the rapidly approaching introduction of testosterone rules that could diminish her performances.

Semenya again delivered the type of race that promised to challenge the longest-standing individual world record in athletics.

Leading throughout, the 27-year-old South African was in world-record shape at 600m before fading down the home straight to eventually win in 1 minute, 54.6 seconds.

“It was just fantastic,” Semenya said. “Only the last 100m were a little off for me.”

Kratochvilova’s record of 1 minute, 53.28 seconds was set in 1983, the same year the then 32-year-old Czech runner won the world 400m and 800m double.

Her feats, coming relatively late in a track career, allied with her muscular physique, spawned allegations of doping, but she has maintained her innocence and put her success down to vitamin B12.

Semenya has also spent her career under the spotlight thanks to her success and physique.

The South African is challenging the federation over controversial new rules it plans to introduce on Nov. 1 on high testosterone levels in female athletes.

Semenya has been unbeaten in the 800m since her elimination in the semi-finals of the 2015 Worlds in Beijing.

However, off the track, Semenya has turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in her challenge of federation rules.

Semenya is potentially the highest-profile female athlete that would be affected by such regulations.

Athletes classified as “hyper-androgynous,” such as Semenya, would have to chemically lower their testosterone levels to be able to compete, something the 800m runner says is discriminatory and in violation of the federation’s constitution and the Olympic Charter.

The proposed rules have been welcomed by many female athletes as a way to create a fairer playing field, but there have been others who say that it is discriminatory.