Throughout athletics history, there have been many legendary 3000 meters steeplechase athletes who made their mark on the discipline, athletes who were celebrated for their resolve and prowess in the event. But out of those many steeplechase legends, only a few have managed to leave a lasting impact on the discipline.
In the modern era, there is one Kenyan athlete who stands just a bit higher than most, and his name is Ezekiel Kemboi.
Known for his treachery, determination, insane dancing styles, and stamina, Kemboi cemented his place as one of the greatest 3000 meters steeplechase athletes of all time. He holds records and achievements just very few athletes have, let alone steeplechasers.
Here is the amazing story of Ezekiel Kemboi:
Kemboi was born in Matira- a village located in Kapsowar in Elgeyo Marakwet County. Of course in the Rift Valley region most kids engaged in athletics from tender ages. Kemboi would not have the typical route of joining Athletics from his childhood as he would have to wait until his end of Primary School studies.
Speaking in an interview at Cheche 254 Kemboi affirmed his unique venture into athletics.
“I realized after Primary school that I had a talent and then started training.”
Credit to the 800 meters Olympic Gold medalist Paul Ereng who saw the untapped potential from the young Ezekiel Kemboi. He took him under his wing from 1999 to around 2001, guiding him through the basics of running.
Kemboi was a fast learner and after three years of intense learning and integration, he made his debut in the Africa Junior Championships and clinched Gold remarkably after falling- this was an impressive start to what would be an illustrious career.
From 2002 to 2008, Kemboi would face stiff competition from Kenya-born Qatar international Stephen Cherono (Known as Saif Saeed). He would play second fiddle to the untouchable Cherono.
In Hindsight, the competition he faced from Cherono would propagate and mold him into an untouchable steeplechaser.
After Cherono stepped down from the discipline, Kemboi would announce himself in the biggest stage- The 2009 World Championships held in Berlin, Germany. He clinched the gold medal with ease, a signal of something special.
He would reciprocate his World Championship three more times; in the 2011 World Championship staged at Daegu, Moscow in 2013, and Beijing in 2015. This was a feat that had not been tapped by any steeplechaser before and remains unbroken till date. He holds the record of winning four consecutive world titles.
Not only did he make the World Championships his event, but he also did it at the Olympics- Athens 2004 and London 2012. This made him one of the most decorated athletes of all time.
Here are other achievements and Silverwares that Kemboi achieved throughout his career;
From 2016 till his retirement during the 2017 World Championships, Kemboi declined and his body was no longer the same. In the 2016 Rio Olympics Kemboi would win Bronze for Kenya which was later relinquished after it was learned he had stepped outside the track during the race. He would make his final appearance in the discipline after finishing 11th in the 2017 World Championships.
To this day, Kemboi remains one of the most iconic steeplechasers ever, and to some, he was even the greatest. For me, I believe he was the most perfect and complete steeplechaser that has ever run. From his funny hairstyles and dancing moments at the end of the races and on top of his amazing character, at least to me, he was in a class of his own.
Were it not for the brilliance of Stephen Cherono in 2002- 2008, he would have dominated the discipline for almost two decades.