Ezekiel Kemboi, king of celebrations, retires from steeplechase

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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 Conseslus 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.

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MORE: Will Bolt win his final race?

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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