Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto stunned the world Thursday evening when he won the Diamond League in Zurich running in one shoe. Kipruto clocked 8 minutes 10 seconds and 15 milliseconds ahead of Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali.
In a dramatic show in the Swiss city, Kipruto’s shoe came off after only 1 minute 24 seconds into the race, and for the remaining six minutes and 54 seconds, the unfazed Kenyan runner would manouvre the track in a single shoe to the astonished amusement of fellow contestants and spectators alike.
It was a great end to the season for Kipruto, who had only won two races in Rome and Birmingham, with his maiden victories at Commonwealth games in Gold Coast in April and Africa Senior Athletics Championships early this month in Asaba, Nigeria.
“I am so grateful to win this final running almost six laps without a shoe. I was in big pain and that was a mess,” said Kipruto. “But it motivated me to fight as hard as I could and the race went well.”
“The crowd was amazing in the stadium and all over the world cheering me. I appreciate everything,” explained Kipruto, who now turns his focus on the IAAF Continental Cup due September 8-9 in Ostrava, Czech.
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION
The performance triggered excitement and a frenzied debate online, with tweeters across the world lauding the athlete’s heroics.
Athletics Weekly called the feat ‘Shoeless wonder’, tweeting, ‘‘Despite losing his left shoe in the early stages, Conseslus Kipruto out-sprints Soufiane El Bakkali to win one of the races of 2018 as he takes the 3000m steeplechase in 8:10.15.’’
“Conseslus Kipruto, we Salute you!” BBC Sport said. “When you still win gold despite running most of the race with one shoe.”
‘‘Conseslus Kipruto was already a ton of fun to watch, but winning the Diamond League final with one shoe (he lost it 1:24 into the race) might be the most impressive thing he has ever done. What an amazing performance,’’ tweeted Jonathan Gault.
Sports Illustrated hailed Kipruto for ‘‘pulling off epic win’’.
The organisers of the event, IAAF Diamond League acknowledged the performance, saying, ‘‘Why not test yourself? The moment Conseslus Kipruto lost his shoe... and still won the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase".
For James Ronoh, another Twitter user, the performance triggered memories of his childhood. He said: ‘‘Conseslus Kipruto winning with one shoe reminds me of the street football we used to play back then in the village with no shoes on, with no injuries recorded, after almost a half a day match with no half time. We used to call that game ‘KAFUNDO.’”
Kipruto, 24, has successfully taken the baton of the steeplechase from fellow countryman Ezekiel Kemboi who dominated the race for more than eight years.
CHERUIYOT, OBIRI CRUISE
Timothy Cheruiyot, the World and Commonwealth 1,500m silver medallist, waded off his training partner World and Commonwealth champion Elijah Manangoi in a thrilling battle after the bell to win.
Cheruiyot, who lost to Manangoi at Commonwealth Games and Africa Senior Athletics Championships, had his moment, clocking 3:30.27 to win.
Manangoi, who is yet to win a Diamond League, couldn't match Cheruiyot's superb kick in the last 300m, to settle second in 3:31.16 as the 2013 Diamond League trophy winner Souleiman Ayanleh clocked 3:31.24 for third place.
“It was a great race for me. Great feeling. I improved my finishing kick. Zurich has a great track that is for sure,” said Cheruiyot.
The women’s 5,000m was simply a thriller with Obiri, the World and Commonwealth champion and World 1,500m silver medallist going head-on with 300m to go.
Actually, six women, including Obiri, Hassan and Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi and world 1500m record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, had reached the bell together before the explosive drama unfolded.
Hassan was the first to take the break on the back straight, but very soon the smaller, dogged figure of Obiri, who is also the Africa champion surged ahead with one of the best ever kick.
As the two women reached the straight, Hassan, an emphatic winner of the European title earlier this month, moved wide for another challenge. But Obiri, serenely confident beforehand, simply wasn’t having it, crossing the line in 14:38.39 to claim one of the 16 Diamond trophies on offer.
Hassan was second in 14:38.77 and Teferi third in 14:40.07.
Kipruto, Obiri and Cheruiyot got the winner’s cheque of Sh 5 million each, where first and second runners up got Sh 3 million and Sh 1 million reach respectively.
“I am pleased to retain my title. I enjoyed the race because we were equal opponents. Before the race I felt I would win and everything came together well. I am proud,” said Obiri.