Norah Jeruto in the steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
Back at the place where she had become the third-fastest women’s 3000m steeplechaser of all time, Kazakhstan’s Norah Jeruto graduated from world U18 champion to senior world champion, leading a historic race at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
The 26-year-old clocked 8:53.65 at Hayward Field last year and emulated that on Wednesday (20), running a championship record of 8:53.02 to consolidate her No.3 spot on the all-time list.
In the first women's 3000m steeplechase race in history where the top three all dipped under nine minutes, Jeruto was followed over the finish line by Ethiopia’s African champion Werkuha Getachew in a 8:54.61 national record and Olympic fourth-place finisher Mekides Abebe in a PB of 8:56.08. Those times move them to fourth and fifth respectively behind Jeruto on the world all-time list.
It's Jeruto’s first senior global gold and the first ever title for Kazakhstan at the World Athletics Championships.
It was in Lille in 2011 that Jeruto won the world U18 2000m steeplechase title for Kenya. In the process of switching her allegiance to Kazakhstan last year, she missed the Olympic Games but returned to international competition in superb style in Oregon.
Bahrain’s 2019 world fourth-placer Winfred Yavi and Jeruto had gone straight to the front of a strong field and stretched it out early on. Jeruto led through the first kilometre in 2:57.72, followed by Yavi and athletes including USA’s 2017 world champion Emma Coburn, Uganda’s Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai, Getachew and Abebe.
The race looked to be a battle between Jeruto, Yavi and Getachew with three laps to go and Jeruto narrowly maintained her place at the front through 2000m, passed in 5:58.29.
Jetuto was a couple of strides ahead with two laps remaining but the leading trio still hadn’t shaken Abebe and the 21-year-old closed the gap, sitting in third behind Yavi and Jeruto at the bell.
Yavi pushed ahead but Jeruto fought back and dealt best with the final water jump. That helped her to create a gap on her rivals and when she neatly cleared the final barrier she was away, speading her arms wide in celebration as she reached the finish line.
“At the start line I was afraid of my friends from Ethiopia,” said the winner. “They are also champions like me, so I was scared of them. I tried my best to win the race and it was not easy.
“I decided to be at the front because I like to control the race, to make sure I can fight for medals.”
And not just any medal. She fought for the gold and celebrated with her fellow medallists by leaping into the water jump.
Jeruto was joined in Oregon by her sister, 2012 world U20 champion Daisy Jepkemei, who ran 9:23.07 to finish sixth in her steeplechase heat.
"I have to say thank you to my father and mother, my coach and opponents, and my manager and my sister," added Jeruto. "She missed out on qualifying for the final but I want to tell her that she is the next champion."
Athletes from six different nations have now won women’s 3000m steeplechase gold at the World Athletics Championships, with Jeruto and Jepkemei being Kazakhstan’s first ever entrants in this event on this stage.
In a fast race, two national records were set further down the field. Behind Yavi, who ran 9:01.31 for fourth, Luiza Gega broke the Albanian record with 9:10.04 for fifth, while USA’s Olympic silver medallist Courtney Frerichs was sixth in 9:10.59. Securing seventh was Aimee Pratt in a British record of 9:15.64, one place ahead of Coburn in 9:16.49.
A fast final had been expected after Jeruto made a strong statement in the heats, running 9:01.54 for what was then the second-quickest ever time at the World Championships, including finals. The previous quickest ever heat had been 9:17.67.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 3000m STEEPLECHASE MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Norah Jeruto 🇰🇿 KAZ||8:53.02 CR, NR|
|🥈||Werkuha Getachew 🇪🇹 ETH||8:54.61 NR|
|🥉||Mekides Abebe 🇪🇹 ETH||8:56.08 PB|