Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto rallied from behind to edge out Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma to retain his World 3,000m steeplechase title at the Doha World Championships on Friday.
Kipruto, who is also the Olympic champion, claimed clocked 8 minutes and 01.35 seconds as Girma came in second in a new Ethiopian national record of 8:01.36.
The Kenyan summoned up a final burst of acceleration and hit the line first, just a mere 0.01 seconds faster than Girma.
Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali clocked 8:03.76 for bronze. Both Kipruto and Girma had to face some anxious moments waiting for the race winner to be announced having crossed the line almost at the same time.
Kenya's 2019 African Games champion Benjamin Kigen finished a disappointing seventh place with Abraham Kibiwot (8:06.95) winding up seventh. World Under-20 silver-medallist Leonard Kipkemoi Bett finished ninth in 8:10.64.
It was a great victory for the 24-year-old, who has been out with a back injury the entire season, and his celebration told it all.
Kipruto raised his arm, sat on a barrier while putting his finger to his lips and then one hand in the shape of a telescope to his eye.
Afterwards, Kipruto said the sight of many Kenyans inside Khalifa Stadium energised him and propelled him to the title when he seemed to be falling behind Girma.
“When I heard Kenyans singing and cheering us up in the stadium, I suddenly got the energy to chase Girma to the finish line. I said I was not going to let them down. They gave me the motivation and I dedicate the gold medal to the fans,” Kipruto, who won by a hundredth of a second, told Nation Sport in Doha.
“It was a very close race. The Ethiopians (Girma and Getnet Wale) knew I would kick early in the race and teamed up to stop me,” he said.
Kipruto disclosed that he had planned to start from the front and control the race for his Kenyan teammates but the Ethiopians scuttled the plan. "I went to the front and waited to kick but they also changed tack and went to the front. Then I decided to keep up with them at that quick rather than fall behind and wait for the other Kenyans because I had looked back to signal to them to charge forward but they were way behind,” Kipruto said.
Kipruto said the race proved faster than he had anticipated, forcing him to change tack going into the last lap.
Kigen said the pace proved too fast.
“The pace was too quick for a championship, which is interesting. The Ethiopians opted to sacrifice Chala Beyo by asking him to set a very quick pace. I thank God for reaching the final and putting great effort here,” Kigen, who will compete in the World Military Games in China before shifting focus to the 2020 Olympics, said.
Meanwhile, Steven Gardiner became the second Bahamian to be crowned men's 400 metres world champion when he stormed to victory in Doha on Friday.
The 24-year-old, a silver medallist in 2017, timed a national record of 43.48 seconds to emulate Avard Moncur's triumph in 2001.
Colombia's PanAm Games champion Anthony Zambrano took silver in 44.15sec while Fred Kerley of the United States was third in a time of 44.17sec.
Kenya's Emmanuel Korir finished sixth in the race.
Additional reporting by AFP