Overconfidence 'cost Kenya' women’s steeplechase title

Saturday August 12 2017

From left: USA's Courtney Frerichs, Kenya's Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and US athlete Emma Coburn compete in the final of the women's 3000m steeplechase at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 11, 2017. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |

From left: USA's Courtney Frerichs, Kenya's Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and US athlete Emma Coburn compete in the final of the women's 3000m steeplechase at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 11, 2017. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |  AFP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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IN LONDON

Overconfidence, lack of concentration and failure to follow game plan cost Kenya victory in women’s 3,000m steeplechase final at the World Championships on Friday.

In one of the major shocks of the championships, Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng relinquished her title to American Emma Coburn, who cracked a Championship Record time of 9min,02.58sec, leading compatriot Courtney Frerichs (9:03.77) to a 1-2 finish.

Kenyan athletes were forced to eat humble pie as Kiyeng settled forbronze in 9:04.03, with Beatrice Chepkoech, who was perceived the strongest among the Kenyans, coming in fourth in 9:10.45.

Olympic champion, Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, came in fifth in 9:13.96 followed by the World Under-20 champion Cellphine Chespol from Kenya in 9:15.04. Commonwealth champion Purity Kirui was placed 10th in 9:25.62.

Team Kenya head coach Julius Kirwa, who described the performance as shocking and disastrous, said the race went on well with Chespol, who had an injury, doing her bit well in tracking Jebet, who was viewed as Kenya’s only threat, until two laps to go.

However, Kirwa said things started going awry when the rest of the pack opted to run differently from how they had planned the race, therefore playing into their rivals’ hands.

Kirwa said they had tipped Chepkoech to go for victory since she was the strongest among the four Kenyan athletes. “We wanted her to stay within the pack with Chespol doing the damage,” Kirwa said.

“It was helter-skelter for our athletes after Jebet and Chespol fell back with two laps to go.”

Kirwa, who was lost for words after Chepkoech lost track before the water barrier with six laps to go before tripping to fall, said the athletes thought they had won it as they allowed the Americans to kick in the last 400m.

“Kiyeng was already tired and it was an exercise of futility going the last 300m with the American since they were strong,” said Kirwa. “The fall, loss of track and overconfidence ruined it for Chepkoech. It’s a learning curve and I hope she will do it better next time.”

Another Kenyan coach Milcah Chemos, the 2013 World 3,000msteeplechase champion and 2009 and 2011 silver medallist, said Kenya could have retained the title if Kiyeng and Chepkoech kicked as agreed in the last 600m.

“The athletes celebrated much earlier after Jebet fell back. They simply lost concentration and lacked ideas to hand the Americans glory,” Chemos said.

“It was just an awful display but I hope we learn from it that you don’t underestimate our rivals.”