Ezekiel Kemboi

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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