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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MORE: Will Bolt win his final race?

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins 100m; U.S. runner loses 10,000m bronze with early celebration

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Molly Huddle raised arms in the air before they crossed the finish line in separate races at the World Championships on Monday night.

Only one of them won a medal.

Fraser-Pryce becoming the first woman to win three World titles in the 100m and Huddle prematurely celebrating and losing a bronze medal to a countrywoman in the 10,000m highlighted action at the Bird’s Nest.

In the 100m final, Fraser-Pryce clocked 10.76 seconds with yellow flowers on her forehead and long green hair running down her back. She raised her right arm and index finger with a few meters left and victory locked up. She wished she ran faster.

“I get tired of 10.7s, honestly,” Fraser-Pryce, who has run in the 10.7s in her career 11 times but never faster than 10.70, said with a laugh on the BBC. “Hopefully, my next race, I’ll get it together.”

She will share the podium with the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers (silver in 10.81, national record) and American Tori Bowie (bronze in 10.86, full results here).

Fraser-Pryce, like countryman Usain Bolt, owns 2009, 2013 and 2015 World titles and 2008 and 2012 Olympic titles in the 100m. The biggest separator between Fraser-Pryce and Bolt (aside from the hair and Bolt’s 17-inch height advantage) are world records, of which Fraser-Pryce has none.

Bowie’s rise to a Worlds 100m medal came in the last 18 months. The soft-spoken Mississippian competed in the long jump at the 2014 World Indoor Championships and, by the end of 2014, was the world’s fastest woman in the 100m for that year.

“Of course, we all want the gold medal, but it’s a stepping stone,” Bowie, with a purple streak in her hair and in her first World Outdoor Championships, told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “I’ll come back even better next year.”

Fraser-Pryce entered Worlds as the fastest woman this year (10.74) and became an even bigger favorite for the final after she sprinted a comfortable 10.82 to win her semifinal earlier Monday, easing up considerably for her final few strides.

Also in that semifinal, American English Gardner was sixth, missing the final despite coming into the meet as the second fastest woman in the world this year.

For the first time ever, fewer than two U.S. women made the Worlds 100m final.

World Track and Field Championships: Five men’s events to watch | Women’s events | Broadcast schedule

About 30 minutes before Fraser-Pryce’s early celebration, American Molly Huddle lost a bronze medal in the 10,000m after she raised both of her arms before the finish line, easing up in her final few strides.

Countrywoman Emily Infeld, running her third 10,000m ever, passed Huddle on her inside to nab the bronze by .09 of a second.

“It’s painful to watch,” Huddle told Johnson on Universal Sports. “Emily slipped on the inside as I eased up a little bit. She had this once-in-a-lifetime moment. I feel like it kind of slipped through my fingers. … The Olympics are typically a hard race, not a tactical one, so this probably won’t ever come around again.”

Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot won the race in 31:41.31, after sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2011 Worlds and missing 2013 due to pregnancy. She was followed by Ethiopian Gelete Burka for silver (31:41.77) and Infeld for bronze (31:43.49) in her Worlds debut.

“I just tried to run all the way through the line,” Infeld told Johnson on Universal Sports, adding to media later, “I don’t think [Huddle] knew I was there. I hate to take a medal away from a teammate and fellow American. … I don’t mean to snipe someone or do that. I feel like that’s kind of like a [expletive] way to get it, so I feel kind of bad now.”

World Championships: Gatlin reacts to man heckling his mom | Steeplechaser falls head first into water pit

Evan Jager finished sixth in the 3000m steeplechase despite coming in as a hope to win the first U.S. medal ever in the event. Kenyans swept places one through four, led by dancing two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi, who won his fourth straight World title.

French Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie won a non-gold medal at Worlds for the fourth straight time, this time sharing bronze with two other athletes. Canadian Shawn Barber upset Lavillenie for gold with a 5.90-meter clearance.

Colombian Caterine Ibarguen repeated as World triple jump champion with a 14.90-meter leap while wearing long pink socks. No U.S. woman has ever earned an Olympic or Worlds triple jump medal, and none were in Monday’s 12-woman final.

In the 400m semifinals, Grenada Olympic champion Kirani James and defending World champion LaShawn Merritt advanced to Wednesday’s eight-man final.

Czech defending World champion Zuzana Hejnova was the fastest qualifier into Wednesday’s 400m hurdles final. NCAA champion Shamier Little, the fastest woman in the world this year, was the slowest of the eight qualifiers into the final.

After her semifinal, Little watched the third and last semifinal clutching a railing, hoping the third-place finisher wouldn’t beat her time and knock her out of the final. She was in tears rolling on the track and, later after making the final, speaking with Johnson on Universal Sports.

Little, 20, wears Malcolm X-style glasses and describes herself in her Twitter bio as being athazagoraphobic and a kleptomaniac.

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott failed to qualify for Wednesday’s javelin final. Walcott has dealt with a reported ankle injury this summer.

World Championships: Gatlin in tears after making ‘Bolt-forced error’ in 100m final

Justin Gatlin, Allyson Felix sizzle at Prefontaine Classic

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U.S. Olympic champions Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix put down statement times in winning sprints at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday, perhaps the top international meet before the World Championships in August.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champ five years removed from a four-year doping ban, clocked 19.68 seconds to win the 200m (video here). It matched his personal best set in 2014 and the fastest time in the world since the 2013 World Championships.

Full Prefontaine Classic meet results are available here.

“When I saw the time, I know I’m on course to go onto the World Championships [in Beijing in August],” Gatlin, 33, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It’s going to be a real rumble in the jungle,” he added when asked about 2015, 2016 and possible matchups with Usain Bolt.

Bolt, the world-record holder at 19.19 who was not in the Prefontaine Classic field, hasn’t run 19.68 or better since he won the 2013 World Championship in 19.66. At the 2013 Worlds, Gatlin took silver behind Bolt in the 100m but did not race the 200m.

“[Bolt] is the kind of guy who’s going to rise to the occasion when it’s time to go,” Gatlin said of Bolt on USATF.TV after the meet. “I’m looking for a time, every time he runs this year, the time’s going to steadily drop and drop and drop. By the time, maybe the [Worlds] semis like he did in 2012 [at the Olympics], he just woke up [9.87] jogging and he came out and ran [9.63] in the finals. That’s what I’m looking to see out of Usain Bolt coming in this year at the World Championships.”

Gatlin is questioned for running his fastest times at an advanced age of 33, after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2006.

“I think it’s more a gift than a curse,” Gatlin said of not competing from 2006 to 2010 to NBC Olympics analyst Ato Boldon on USATF.TV. “I think it gave my legs a little shelf life. I never had any major injuries, maybe a hamstring strain here or a quad strain there. I just really wanted to show everybody that I could come back. But it wasn’t [just] me. I want to say that guys like yourself, Ato Boldon, Frankie Fredericks, Carl LewisLeroy Burrell, Linford Christie, those guys ran well into their 30s [editor’s note: Boldon and Burrell did not break 10 seconds in the 100m in their 30s]. I’m just taking that page out of their book. You know what, your career’s not over when you hit 30. I think a lot of guys this day and age think that.”

Earlier, Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, won the 400m over Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross (video here). Felix clocked 50.05, her fastest 400m time since she took silver at the 2011 World Championships in 49.59, which marked the last time she ran the 400m at a global championship.

“I just want to explore it more,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN of the 400m.

Felix has said she will run either the 200m or the 400m at the World Championships in Beijing in August, but not both. Notably, the 200m semifinals and 400m final at Worlds are 70 minutes apart.

Felix, who owns six Olympic medals and 10 Worlds medals, has an automatic berth on the World Championships team in the 200m but must finish in the top three in the 400m at the U.S. Championships in June to qualify in both races.

Tyson Gay won the 100m in 9.88 seconds, his fastest time since 2011 if excluding the times wiped out from his doping ban (race video here). Gatlin is the only other American to break 9.90 since the London 2012 Olympics.

Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took the women’s 100m in 10.81, her fastest time since Sept. 6, 2013. Fraser-Pryce had not broken 11 seconds since 2013 before Saturday. Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure was second in an identical time, followed by American Tori Bowie, the fastest woman of 2014, in 10.82 (race video here).

Earlier, 2013 U.S. champion English Gardner outleaned Jamaican Elaine Thompson in a 100m B final. Both clocked a personal-best 10.84. Gardner, like Fraser-Pryce, had not broken 11 seconds since 2013.

“I’ve been struggling the past couple of two years, I switched coaches, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to bounce back,” Gardner tearfully told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I’m overwhelmed because I started losing a little bit of faith in myself.”

Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada defeated U.S. rival and World champion LaShawn Merritt in the 400m, 43.95 to 44.51. James clocked the fastest time in the world this year.

American Jenny Simpson took the 1500m in 4:00.98. Simpson, the 2014 Diamond League champion, won gold at the 2011 World Championships and silver at the 2013 World Championships.

“This is where legends win, and where they’re born,” Simpson told Lewis Johnson on NBC on the 40-year anniversary of 1972 Olympic 5000m runner Steve Prefontaine‘s death. “I’m trying to write my name in the history books.”

Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman captured the Bowerman Mile finale in 3:51.10, edging American Matthew Centrowitz by one tenth.

French Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault but missed three attempts at matching his world record of 6.16m.

In the 110m hurdles, France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde clocked 13.06, the fastest time in the world this year, beating Americans Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.12) and World champion David Oliver (13.14).

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim cleared 2.41m to win the high jump but took no attempts closer to the 22-year-old world record of 2.45m due to leg cramps.

U.S. champion Johnny Dutch edged 2005 World champion Bershawn Jackson in the 400m hurdles, 48.20 to 48.22. Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley was third in 48.79, completing a U.S. sweep. Jackson remains the fastest in the world this year at 48.09.

Two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi won the 3000m steeplechase, crossing the finish line in lane 3 and dancing in celebration, not unusual for the Kenyan. Kemboi won in 8:01.71, the fastest time ever in the U.S.

The Diamond League continues with a meet in Rome on Thursday. The U.S. Championships, also in Eugene, are June 26-28. The World Championships are Aug. 22-28 in Beijing.

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*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there were two days between the women’s 400m and women’s 200m at the World Championships.