n but his lead only lasted the length of the back straight. Girma kicked to the front with 200 metres remaining as El Bakkali started to grimace. Kipruto then moved past the Moroccan into second place and in pursuit of Girma, the possibility of retaining his title now a distinct possibility.
The two men flew over the final barrier with Girma still managing to hold a slight advantage over the Olympic champion, but Kipruto was gaining on the young Ethiopian with every step. They crossed the line almost in unison, both unsure of the outcome as they waited nervously for the times to come up on the screen.
Finally it was confirmed: Kipruto had successfully defended his title in 8:01.35, the third-fastest time of his career and the second-fastest winning time in World Championships history. He now joins Moses Kiptanui, Saif Saaeed Shaheen and Ezekiel Kemboi as multiple steeplechase gold medallists at the World Championships.
Girma, who is still an U20 athlete, took the silver medal in an Ethiopian senior record of 8:01.36, just 0.01 behind the winner, making it by far the closest ever finish in the steeplechase at the World Championships.
El Bakkali held on for bronze in 8:03.76, finishing comfortably ahead of Wale, who set a PB of 8:05.21, and France’s Djilali Bedrani, whose 8:05.23 PB takes him to fourth on the European all-time list.
“The Ethiopians had a plan before we started the race,” said Kipruto. “I had a plan for us Kenyans to push hard and I wanted to go in front to control the pace but it was not possible. Those guys, Girma and Wale, simply destroyed my tactics.
“But at championships, I always believe that that experience counts for a lot; it’s not about shape. I set my mind and my heart very well. When I got to the start line, I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it’. This strong mentality helped me win the race.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF