Athletics: Kenya’s Kipruto targets steeplechase world record in Brussels
By Isaack Omulo
LONDON (Reuters) - Kenya’s Olympic and newly-crowned world 3,000 metres steeplechase champion, Conseslus Kipruto, said on Wednesday he would attempt a world record at the final Diamond League in Brussels on Sept. 1.
The 22-year-old Kipruto won silver in Moscow in 2013 and in Beijing in 2015 behind compatriot Ezekiel Kemboi.
He continued his country's dominance of the event with a courageous victory at the World Championships in London on Tuesday, just weeks after recovering from an ankle injury.
“Now that I have the Olympic and world titles, I think I am ripe for the world record, which I will attempt in Brussels on September 1,” Kipruto told Reuters.
“I think I am still strong enough. I am not promising that it will happen, but trying something is not bad. I want it now (world record)," he said.
Qatar’s Kenyan-born Saif Saaeed Shaheen set the world steeplechase record of 7:53.63 on Sept. 3, 2004 at the same Van Damme Memorial event in Brussels.
Kipruto’s ambition looks ambitious since his best time this season is 8:04.63, although he has a personal best of 8:00.12.
American Olympic silver medallist Evan Jager, who took bronze in London behind Kipruto and Morocco's Soufiane Elbakkali, has the world leading time of 8:01.29 and a personal best of 8:00.45.
Kenya's twice Olympic and four-time world champion Kemboi only managed 11th place in London in his last steeplechase before he launches a road race career in two weeks' time with a 10km before a half marathon in December and marathon in April.
Team mate Jairus Kipchoge Birech finished 12th.
Kipruto said Kemboi had left steeplechase for good.
“Today (Tuesday), after the race, Kemboi handed me the (steeplechase) baton. He came to me and told me: ‘Kipruto, I hand over to you the baton.' He did the same in Rio (at the Olympics) but after he was disqualified he changed his mind.
"Today, he did it and meant it. I will keep the baton and ensure we don’t lose it (the title) during my reign,” he said.
"The previous night, I feared Jager and the Moroccan (Elbakkali) may upset the Kenyans. But when I woke up yesterday, I told myself, 'I am the Olympic champion; why fear anybody?'
"Even if we did not win all the medals, as we had hoped, gold is everything. The race was very difficult, with a head wind hitting us directly,” added Kipruto.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)