Ezekiel Kemboi, king of celebrations, retires from steeplechase

Leave a comment

Ezekiel Kemboi ended the most decorated steeplechase career in history, one year later than originally planned.

The 35-year-old Kenyan finished 11th at the world championships in London on Tuesday, then confirmed he was turning to road racing.

“Next year, hopefully, I’ll do my first marathon,” in April, Kemboi told media in London. “But I’m done with the 3000m steeplechase.”

Kemboi won the 2004 and 2012 Olympic titles, plus all four world titles from 2009 through 2015. He tacked on world silver medals in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The former high school DJ began running seriously in 2001.

Kemboi went into the Rio Games saying he would move to road racing after the Olympics. But he was stripped of his bronze medal hours after the final for stepping off the track. His disqualification gave the bronze to France’s notorious bad boy Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who had four years earlier exchanged jerseys with Kemboi and carried the diminutive Kenyan in his arms after their London Olympic one-two finish.

“I had opted to retire right after the Olympics only if I had come home with this medal,” was posted on Kemboi’s Facebook page that day. “Now I feel that I have to bring back this medal, not by protesting again but right on track. Kemboi is not retired, I will be coming to London 2017 to reclaim my medal from France. No limits.”

Kemboi was also well-known for his title celebrations. They ranged from going shirtless to wearing the Kenyan flag as a skirt to crossing the finish line all the way out in lane 7.

The most famous was at the 2011 Worlds, where Kemboi dedicated a dance to Usain Bolt, who had been disqualified for a false-start in the 100m final.

“My friend Usain Bolt wasn’t in the finals and couldn’t dance in the finals,” Kemboi said then. “So I had to do the dance for my friend Usain Bolt.”

There was little reason to bask in glory after Tuesday’s final. Kemboi finished 15 seconds behind winner and countryman Consenslus Kipruto, who extended Kenya’s dynasty to nine straight Olympic or world steeplechase titles. It’s the longest active streak for one nation in any track and field event.

“I’m not disappointed; I’m so happy to be here in London,” Kemboi said. “This is my eighth world championships, so I’m so happy. The [other] guys, it’s their second, third. So, for me, it’s a long season, long career. Four times world champion, two times Olympic champion, I’m so happy.”

In 2012, Kemboi had charges dropped by a woman who claimed he had stabbed her for resisting sexual advances. Kemboi denied wrongdoing.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Will Bolt win his final race?

Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

Getty Images
1 Comment

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Austrians say no to 2026 Olympic bid

Simone Biles announces new coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Gracie Gold in treatment for eating disorder, depression