Kenya’s four-time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi said Tuesday’s world championship final where he finished 11th would be his last outing in the 3,000 metres steeplechase.
Although he has previously backtracked on declarations to quit the event that he has dominated for more than a decade, Kemboi, 35, insisted that this time he meant it.
“This was my last steeplechase race. You will never see me run the race again,” said the man who had won the previous four world titles and finished second in the three before that.
“I am launching my road race career in two weeks with a 10km road race, a half marathon in December and a full marathon in April next year.
Kemboi was in contention until the final lap but could not respond when compatriot and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto accelerated and went on to win in eight minutes, 14.12 seconds.
Moroccan Soufiane Elbakkali took silver and American Evan Jager bronze as Kemboi went backwards and recorded his worst finish in a major steeplechase.
“I am not disappointed. Contrary to many peoples’ opinion, I am happy to be here in London for my eighth “World Championships,” he said.
“Not many athletes are blessed with such staying power – it has been a long career. Kipruto was less than 10-years-old when I won my first major title.”
Although Kipruto’s victory maintained Kenya’s astonishing dominance of the gruelling event, Kemboi said it was not guaranteed to continue.
“You can no longer say this is a Kenyan race. Probably we will need new coaching techniques and tactics, we need to modify our coaching to return to where we were,” he said.
Kemboi won his first major steeplechase medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, where he took silver, and went on to take Olympic gold in 2004 and 2012.