Norah Jeruto, after missing Olympics, wins track worlds steeplechase in No. 3 time ever

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Kazakhstan’s Norah Jeruto could only watch the Tokyo Olympic 3000m steeplechase. Able to run for her new country this year, she left no doubt who is the world’s top steepler on Wednesday night.

Jeruto won the world championships gold medal in Eugene, Oregon, in 8 minutes, 53.02 seconds, the third-fastest time in history. She distanced Ethiopian silver and bronze medalists Werkuha Getachew and Mekidas Abebe coming off the last water jump.

“At the start line I was afraid of my friends from Ethiopia,” Jeruto said, according to World Athletics. “They are also champions like me, so I was scared of them.”

Americans were sixth (Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs), eighth (2019 World champion Emma Coburn) and 12th (Courtney Wayment).

Jeruto, 26, was the world’s fastest steepler last year but could not compete at the Olympics while in the process of switching her nationality from Kenya to Kazakhstan. Before the switch, Jeruto was the world’s second-fastest steepler in 2018 and fourth-fastest in 2019.

Jeruto, who still trains in Kenya, had to wait three years since she last represented Kenya to be able to compete for Kazakhstan.

Now, she’s the first Kazakh athlete to win a world outdoor track and field title.

“It’s the first thing I’ve done for my country,” she said while wrapped in a Kazakhstan flag. “I want to tell them spasibo [thank you].”

Worlds continue Thursday featuring the 200m finals for men (Noah LylesErriyon Knighton) and women (Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceElaine Thompson-HerahShericka Jackson).

TRACK WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster | Key Events

In the night’s other final, China’s Feng Bin upset the last two Olympic women’s discus champions — Croatian Sandra Perkovic, who took silver, and Tokyo gold medalist American Valarie Allman, who earned bronze. Allman became the first U.S. woman to win a world championships discus medal. On Her Turf has more on the women’s discus final here.

Including Jeruto and Feng, the last 14 gold medals at these worlds went to athletes from 14 different nations: the U.S., Jamaica, Ethiopia, Qatar, Venezuela, Belgium, Morocco, Kenya, Slovenia, Australia, Great Britain, Brazil and now Kazakhstan and China.

Olympic champion and world record holder Sydney McLaughlin cruised to the eighth-fastest 400m hurdles time in history (52.17, which would have been a world record up until three years ago) to lead the qualifiers into Friday’s final. Half of the field is American, also including defending champion Dalilah Muhammad.

Caster Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion competing in her first worlds since 2017, was eliminated in the 5000m in 13th place in her heat. Semenya, who was not expected to make the final, moved up to the 5000m last year after a World Athletics rule was instituted capping testosterone levels in women’s events between 400m and the mile. On Her Turf has more on Semenya here.

Ethiopians Letesenbet Gidey (who won the 10,000m on Saturday) and Gudaf Tsegay (silver in the 1500m on Monday) won the 5000m heats. Sifan Hassan, who won the 5000m and 10,000m at the Olympics, was third in her heat to advance to Saturday’s final.

American Michael Norman was the fastest qualifier into Friday’s men’s 400m final, which will not include Olympic champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas (injured) or Diamond League champion Michael Cherry, the American who was eliminated in Wednesday’s semifinals.

No Americans made Friday’s women’s 400m final or Thursday’s men’s 800m semis.

Most notably, Donavan Brazier was seventh in his first-round heat, ending his world title defense. Brazier, who missed the Olympic team while racing on a broken tibia last summer, raced while injured again this summer and plans to get Achilles surgery on the opposite foot next week.

“I came into it with the expectation to be competitive, and I couldn’t even do that today, so it’s extremely disappointing to say the absolute least,” Brazier told Lewis Johnson on USA Network. “I don’t like disappointing America, but that’s how it feels right now.”

Brit Max Burgin, the world’s fastest 800m man this year, withdrew before the heats with an unspecified injury.

Also Wednesday, Fred Kerley‘s agent said that the world 100m champion will not take part in the 4x100m relay later this week due to a quad injury suffered in the 200m semis.

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