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Steeplechase loss a wakeup call, Bronze medalist Kigen sounds warning bells



TOKYO, Japan, Aug 2 – As Kenya comes to terms with losing the Men’s Steeplechase gold for the first time since Mexico 68′ when Amos Biwott led Benjamin Kogo to a 1-2 finish, Tokyo 2020 bronze medalist Benjamin Kigen believes it’s a wake-up call for the country’s longstanding prowess over the distance.

Kigen, who was in the company of compatriot Abraham Kibowot, was however happy with the bronze given that it was his first Olympics. He nevertheless emphasized on the need to change tact after Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali won gold in 8:10.38 ahead of Ethiopian Lamecha Girma who took silver in 8:10.38.

“Other countries are also coming strongly in the race including Ethiopians.”

Kigen conceded defeat but candidly blamed his position on the brutal summer weather in the Japanese Capital.

“It was really hard for me. The searing heat rose up to 44 degrees before it rained in the evening just before the men’s Steeplechase final. Lack of team work also contributed to our unpleasing performance.”

Benjamin Kigen at Olympics

Kenyan has never lost in this race since Mexico Olympics inn1968.

And for a consecutive 37 years from 1984, Kenya has dominated what has been christened a ‘Kenyan affair’ for donkeys year’s with Conseslus Kipruto being the last athlete to lay his hands on the coveted Steeplechase gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Kenya did not compete in the 1976 (Montreal) and 1980 (Moscow) Games.

Kenya was among the twenty-nine countries, mostly African, which boycotted the Montreal 76′ Games when IOC refused to ban New Zealand, after the New Zealand national rugby union team had toured South Africa earlier in 1976 in defiance of the United Nations’ calls for a sporting embargo.

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Kenya was also among countries which boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games to protest the late 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In total, 65 nations refused to participate in the games, whereas 80 countries sent athletes to compete.

“Steeplechase has evolved over the years .it is not the same as it was 10 years ago when the times were slow and competitors feared each other, like for instant I qualified to the finals in a time of 8 minutes and 10 seconds and today I won bronze in 8 minutes and 11 seconds. There was pressure though because we have always been the team to beat,” Kigen, a Kenya Defence Forces soldier explained.

Benjamin Kigen clears the water barrier in the steeplechase heats at the Tokyo Olympics. PHOTO/Reuters

He added, “If you go to YouTube, you will see there is a big difference on how the race has grown, yes we have lost the title for the first time but it is an eye opener, it is now time that we changed our tactics and prepare well because the race dynamics have also changed.”

Commenting on what cost Kenya the race, he went on, “The weather was not favourable. It was too hot outside but the rain helped in cooling the temperatures. The mistake I made was to let the gap open up and by the time we got to the bell, the athletes had opened the gap so I used a lot of energy to close the gap. But at least if I was near, I could have taken gold, next time I will rectify on that facet and I will win,” Kigen said.

“I am happy to take bronze since it is my first Olympics, so I have to work harder because I have seen there is a possibility of winning gold in the next races next year. Athletics is not like football; it is an individual race it all about focus and training hard. I promise to do better next time,” Kigen, who finished sixth at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar underscored.

Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali wins the men’s 3000m steeplechase final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 2, 2021. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Kigen has a Personal Best of 8:05.12 he set in 2019 at the Monaco Diamond League.

He revealed that he has had challenges in accessing quality training facilities.

“I faced a lot of challenges going into this race. Like now I am training alone with no one to help me. I don’t have training facilities.  The ones I have I borrow and had I gotten a training partner it could have made a bigger difference. I train in Nairobi, the rest in Iten, I lacked training facilities like the steeplechase barriers, I only came to see them here in the competition,” Kigen, who trains in Ngong said.

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