Tokyo (AFP)

Soufiane El Bakkali was crowned Olympic champion in the 3,000 m steeplechase on Monday in Tokyo, becoming the first Moroccan gold medalist at the Games in all sports since Hicham El Guerrouj in 2004.

El Bakkali (25 years old) beat the Ethiopian Lamecha Girma (8: 10.38) and the Kenyan Benjamin Kigen (8: 11.45) in 8:08:90 to succeed the Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, absent this year.

The French Alexis Phelut finished 12th (8 min 23 sec 14) for his first international final at 23 years old.

In Kipruto's absence, El Bakkali ended Kenya's incredible distance dominance, after nine consecutive Olympic titles since 1984.

The runner from Fez was revealed at the age of 20 at the Olympic Games in Rio where he took 4th place behind Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi.

Since then, he became vice-world champion in 2017 in London and then world bronze medalist in Doha in 2019.

He won the 7th Olympic title in the history of Morocco, all obtained in athletics, the last two during the resounding 1,500 / 5,000 m double of the legend of the track Hicham El Guerrouj.

On Monday, it was the Ethiopians who raced and accelerated the tempo after a first kilometer of observation on a wet track, a few minutes after a long and intense rainy passage.

Girma, the reigning vice-world champion, was rewarded for his work at the front of the field by taking silver.

But he was overwhelmed quite easily by El Bakkali in the last 200 meters, Kenyan Benjamin Kigen taking 3rd place at a good distance.

© 2021 AFP

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