BEIJING, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Ezekiel Kemboi underlined his status as one of the great Kenyan athletes by capturing the world championship 3,000 meters steeplechase crown for a record fourth time on Monday.
The 33-year-old seized the gold medal thanks to a devastating sub 57-second last-lap burst at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
Kenya secured their first clean sweep in the event for eight years but the anticipated challenge from Evan Jager faded on the final lap as the American was unable to match the speed of the Africans and trailed home sixth.
Kemboi, who clocked eight minutes 11.28 seconds, added the title to those he won in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and to the Olympic gold he landed in 2004 and 2012.
Silver went to Conseslus Kipruto, who did much of the pacesetting and hung on to finish in 8:12.38, while Brimin Kiprop came third in 8:12.54.
Another Kenyan, 2015 world rankings leader Jairus Birech, was fourth in 8:12.62.
“On the last lap nobody could follow me,” said Kemboi as he confirmed he would race at the Rio Olympics next year. “I will be celebrating tonight with my team mates.”
The prospect of an athlete challenging the Kenyan monopoly in this event, 12 previous world champions were born in the African country, improved when Jager was runner-up at a Diamond League meeting in Paris last month.
However, the relatively modest early pace did not suit the rangy American on Monday.
While Kipruto did much of the hard work up at the front, Kemboi hardly moved from the back of the leading quintet until the bell sounded for the final lap.
Jager surged on to the shoulder of Kipruto but, down the back straight, Kemboi overtook all his rivals before producing one of his trademark victory dances after crossing the line.
Kipruto said the Kenyan quartet had run as a team.
“Our plan was to go for gold, silver, bronze,” he explained. “I am happy I was able to assist my team, I sacrificed myself for the team.”
For Jager, 26, it was a case of going back to the drawing board.
”Those guys are so freaking tough over the last lap, running extremely fast over barriers,“ he said. ”It’s something I haven’t figured out yet.
“There’s a reason why the Kenyans have won every single steeplechase world championship they’ve competed in for the last 12, 13 years so it’s really tough.”
Writing by Steven Downes; Editing by Tony Jimenez