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Tokyo Olympics preview: 3000m steeplechase

Women’s 3000m steeplechase

The standout steeplechaser over the past few years hasn’t quite been so dominant in 2021, throwing this event wide open going into Tokyo.

Beatrice Chepkoech broke the world record in 2018, clocking 8:44.32, and then went on to win the world title in 2019 with a championship record of 8:57.84, finishing almost five seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

She finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics and at the 2017 World Championships, despite losing precious time when missing one of the barriers. She rebounded well, and throughout 2018 and 2019 she won 17 of her 19 races. She now also owns half of history’s 14 sub-nine-minute performances in the steeplechase.

But despite a promising start to her year, which included a world record of 14:43 over 5km and an indoor 3000m PB of 8:31.72 just three days later, the Kenyan hasn’t won any of her steeplechase races in 2021. Her season’s best of 9:04.94 was set when finishing a distant second at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

Her compatriot Hyvin Kiyeng was the winner on that occasion in what turned out to be an eventful race. Kiyeng misjudged her remaining laps due to a human error with the lap counter, so she started her final kick one lap early. Upon realising her mistake after hearing the bell for the actual final lap, she somehow managed to muster enough energy to hold on to her lead, winning in a season’s best of 9:03.82.

Kiyeng won the world title in 2015 and went on to take Olympic silver in 2016 and world bronze in 2017. She finished fourth on her season debut in Doha earlier this year but has gone on to win the rest of her races, beating Chepkoech on all three occasions.

And if she can beat a world record-holder and world champion after having messed up her finishing kick, as she did in Monaco, Kiyeng will be a big threat in Tokyo. She could even finally improve on the PB of 9:00.01 she set back in 2016.

The fastest of the entrants, somewhat surprisingly, is African Games champion Mekides Abebe, who set an Ethiopian record of 9:02.52 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha. Her only other races this year have been against domestic opposition, but she won both the Ethiopian Championships in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo.

Despite being just 19 years of age, Abebe is actually the oldest of Ethiopia’s steeplechase representatives. She’ll be joined in Tokyo by Lomi Muleta, who set a PB of 9:14.03 this year, and Zerfe Wondemagegn, who set a national U20 record of 9:16.95 in Hengelo. All three women represented Ethiopia at the 2019 World Championships, so, despite their young age, they will have already gained some valuable experience ahead of making their Olympic debut.

US champion Emma Coburn will once again be a medal contender. Olympic bronze medallist in 2016, world champion in 2017 and world silver medallist in 2019, Coburn is always in the mix at major events.

She fell at the last water jump in her final pre-Olympic race at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco, eventually finishing fourth in 9:09.02. She had watched Kiyeng’s blunder from afar and had started to reel in the Kenyan, though there’s also no guarantee Coburn would have won on that occasion had she stayed on her feet. Regardless, assuming she makes no such mistake in Tokyo, Coburn will be in the medal hunt.

Gesa-Felicitas Krause is another strong championship performer. The German won European golds in 2016 and 2018, sandwiched between world bronze medals in 2015 and 2019. She heads to Tokyo with a season’s best of 9:09.13, though it’s highly likely she’ll improve on that; in all but one of her 10 seasons between 2010 and 2019, Krause’s fastest times of each year were set in championship finals.

Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi just missed out on the medals at the World Championships in Doha, but gained some form of redemption when she returned to the Qatari capital for the Wanda Diamond League meeting earlier this year as she came away with a PB of 9:02.64, beating Kiyeng, Coburn and Krause.

Others who could feature in the final include North American record-holder and 2017 world silver medallist Courtney Frerichs, Slovenian record-holder Marusa Mismas-Zrimsek, 2014 Commonwealth champion Purity Kirui, Oceanian record-holder Genevieve Gregson of Australia, Chinese record-holder Zhang Xinyan and Ugandan record-holder Peruth Chemutai.

World 3000m Steeplechase record holder takes on Chespol and Cherono in Brussels

World 3,000m steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech will headline the Final Zurich Brussels Diamond League Meeting that will be held on Friday (31) in Brussels, Belgium.

The 27 year-old who became the first woman to break 8:50 and 8:45 will face off with with Africa silver medallist Celliphine Chespol and bronze medallist Fancy Cherono.

Other Kenyans on the start list are former world champion Hyving Kiyeng, Caroline Tuigong, Daisy Jepkemei and Norah Jeruto for company in the water jump event.

The Kenyans water champions will battle for the honors with World champion Emma Coburn of the United States and Commonwealth Games champion Aisha Praught of Jamaica.

Africa 1,500 meters champion Winny Chebet is lined up for the event, where she faces stern test from several world beaters including England’s Laura Muir and Laura Weightman, Netherlands’ Hassan Sifan and Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia.

Commonwealth Games 800m champion Wycliffe Kinyamal faces off with Africa silver medallist Emmanuel Korir, Ferguson Rotich, Cornelius Tuwei, with Marcin Lewadonski of Poland also in the mix.

World record holder Chepkoech set Sights on next target

For most spectators in Friday’s steamy and spectacular IAAF Diamond Leaguemeeting in the Stade Louis II, Beatrice Chepkoech’s 3000m steeplechase world record looked on with about three laps to go. As far as Chepkoech was concerned, however, it was on from the moment the gun went…

What became clear soon after she had taken an extraordinary margin of eight seconds off the world record mark of 8:52.78 in running 8:44.32 was how little of a surprise the achievement was to this 27-year-old Kenyan – albeit that even she had not anticipated running quite as fast.

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

“I was thinking maybe I can break 8:50 but not at all was I dreaming about 8:44. And this time still could be improved I’m sure.”

After pacemaker Caroline Tuigong, the 2006 world U20 champion, had led to the 1000-metre mark in 2:55.23 before veering off, Chepkoech pushed on relentlessly, running her next two laps in 68.6 and 70.5.

When she reached 2000 metres in 5:49.81, looking smooth and untroubled, something special was clearly on.

Chepkoech slowed on the penultimate lap, running 71.4, before accelerating to embrace her historic moment with a final lap which the meeting organisers gave at 66.8.

“On my last lap I watched the time and I knew that I was going to break the world record and that was what I wished for,” she told the IAAF.

“It is great feeling I brought back to Kenya the women’s steeplechase record, I’m very proud of it. And that after six years of running and three years with steeplechase.”

According to Kenyan news sources, the question of whether Chepkoech would be running the steeplechase this season was something of an issue following the debacle at last year’s IAAF World Championships. She put paid to her excellent chance of winning the title when she missed a water jump and had to double back and put it right before finishing fourth in a race that ended with unexpected success for the United States as Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs won respective gold and silver.

“Of course I was angry,” she said as she reflected on her gaffe on Friday. “But that did not stop me from continuing to believe in myself, on the contrary.”

Nevertheless, it seemed that some others were not convinced. It was reported that she had been obliged to run the 1500m rather than the 3000m steeplechase at this year’s Commonwealth Games – where she took silver in 4:03.09 behind South Africa’s Caster Semenya – and has since wanted to prove a point by running a “strong PB”.

But there is no doubt that Chepkoech is an unusually adaptable athlete in terms of events. She began as a road runner, switching to the track in 2015, when she set a 1500m personal best of 4:03.28 and earned a bronze medal at the African Games.

She finished that season with a run in the 2000m steeplechase at the ISTAF Berlin meeting and made a successful transition to the full-distance event the following year, finishing fourth and second respectively at the Eugene and Stockholm IAAF Diamond League meetings before missing out on an Olympic medal by one place.

Chepkoech, who runs for Kenya’s national police service, underlined her outstanding breadth of talent at last month’s service championships, where she retained her steeplechase title in 10:00.60 before winning the 1500m in 4:07.69 – beating the 2013 world champion Eunice Sum into second place – before completing a hat-trick of titles in the 400m hurdles, where she ran 60.70.

Coached by 2006 European 800m champion Bram Som and a training partner of world and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon, Chepkoeche is now due to represent Kenya – this time back in the 3000m steeplechase – at the African Championships in Asaba, Nigeria from 1-5 August, along with the world U20 champion Celliphine Chespol, 10th in Monaco, and Fancy Cherono.

It was a measure of her superiority on the night that second-placed Frerichs broke Coburn’s US record of 9:02.58, finishing in 9:00.85 to become the sixth fastest woman of all time – and she was more than 16 seconds adrift of the Kenyan.

“That race was incredible!” said Frerichs. “Eight seconds under the world record – it’s such a huge step for the event, such a promotion.

“I’m so proud of this American record and what will keep us going is the nine minutes line and that’s what I’ll be aiming for. It feels amazing to be an American among all the Kenyans and I have to give so much credit to Emma for making this event what it is now in America. Who knows what’s coming next?”

On that subject, Chepkoech has already begun speculating: “Maybe my next target could be to run under 8.40.”

Chepkoech thrashes women’s steeplechase world record

Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech smashed the world record in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase at the Monaco Diamond League meeting that was held in Monaco, Italy.

The 27 year-old, broke the previous record of 8:52.78 that was set in 2016 by Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet after breaking clear 2,000 metres lead to go ahead in an astonishing speed to cut the tape in new world record of 8:44.32.

“I am so grateful,” Chepkoech told reporters. “I said from the beginning, from the first lap, and I was watching the time, and I knew I was going to break the world record.”

Jebet was named today by the Athletics Integrity Unit among more than 100 athletes and coaches facing disciplinary proceedings for doping offences.

It also bettered the 8:58.78 set in Eugene last year by Chepkoech’s 19-year-old compatriot Celliphine Chespol, who was on her shoulder halfway through this race but, after a heavy fall, slipped back to a tenth place finish in 9:12.05.

United State’s Courtney Frerichs, surprise world silver medallist last year behind compatriot Emma Coburn, made the most of the fabulous pace by pushing to the line for second place in an area record of 9:00.85, with 2015 world champion Hyvin Kiyeng from Kenya crossing the line third in 9:04.41.

Hyving Kiyeng: Fast times will come in July

A chaotic women’s 3000m steeplechase provided some level of answer to the question about what would have happened last week in Rome when world champion Emma Coburn came to grief at the final water jump.

This time around, it boiled down to a head-to-head clash with Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya – her conqueror that day – and Kiyeng proved that Rome win was no fluke.

After a swift opening kilometre of 3:01.80, the pace slowed considerably and 2000m was reached in 6:09.42. Soon after the Kenyan seized command, opening an eight-metre lead on Coburn on the final lap, which the American began to close around the last turn. Kiyeng was all out down the home straight to hold off Coburn, but that she did, 9:09.63 to 9:09.70, with Daisy Chepkemei third in 9:16.87.

“It was all about the win, I was not thinking about times at all,” said Kiyeng. “I had some injuries in Rome and wanted to continue winning. Fast times will come in July.”

World silver medallist Courtney Frerichs finished fourth with Commonwealth champion Aisha Praught fifth, both athletes hampered badly by an early barrier which was set to the wrong height, a mistake that was rectified minutes later by officials after Coburn – and her husband Joe Bosshard – did their best to bring it to their attention.

“After the stress, the pace slowed down a lot but today was a step in the right direction for me,” said Coburn. “I hope to come back here again and next it will take a perfect night and all of the stars to align for me to run sub-nine minutes but I’m hopeful – maybe in Monaco.”

In the men’s 1500m, a non-Diamond League event, Britain’s Chris O’Hare spoiled the Norwegian party that had begun to break out with 300m to run, the point at which 17-year-old Wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen seized control at the front after the pacemakers dropped out following a 2:54.39 first 1200m.

Ingebrigtsen led into the final bend but O’Hare changed gears with alacrity with 120 metres to run, taking the lead and battling bravely up the home straight to fend off the challenge of Ingebrigtsen and Robby Andrews. O’Hare was all out to the line to hold on in 3:35.96, inches ahead of Andrews (3:36.05), with Ingebrigtsen having to settle for third on this occasion, rewarded with a PB of 3:36.06.

“I’ve had a rough six months as I’ve been injured,” said O’Hare. “I wasn’t invited into the Dream Mile so I wanted to prove myself and I did.”

The men’s 10,000m saw Kenya’s Dominic Kiptarus take victory in 28:05.34 from Australia’s Stewart McSweyn (28:35.37) and Switzerland’s Julien Wanders (28:07.15). Norway’s marathon specialist Sondre Moen finished fifth in 28:37.92.

At an event renowned for its rich history, it was heartening to see a sell-out crowd fill the stadium for the first time in several years, the sure sign of an athletics meeting in rude health.

 

Kiyeng to face Coburn at Oslo Bislett Games

Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng, will for the second time square it out with United States Emma Coburn at the Oslo Bislett games that will be held on Thursday (7) in Oslo, Norway.

The first time we got to see the last two world champs, Kiyeng and Coburn, match up did not disappoint. On the final water jump, Kiyeng, Coburn, and world U20 champion Celliphine Chespol were all level, but a fall by Coburn left it as a two-woman race, won by Kiyeng in a world leader of 9:04.96 after a dramatic home-straight run.

Emma is full of life as she has left behind what happened in Rome and is ready to tackle the handle this time being more cautious.

Through her twitter account Coburn said, “Leaving for Oslo in the morning, I’m so excited for @BislettGames!! Should be fire (hopefully no falls this time).

Three more Kenyans Daisy Jepkemei(9:15.56, Purity Kirui (9:21.34, Ann Gathoni (9:47.71 and Caroline Tuigong (10:10.20 will be on the start lineup.

The race will start at 9:20PM Kenyan time.