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Ugandan Peruth Chemutai wins the women's 3000m steeplechase at the Olympics 2021

Peruth Chemutai with an incredible win in the women's 3000m steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics
Peruth Chemutai with an incredible win in the women's 3000m steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics will always be special for Ugandans, and Peruth Chemutai in particular. Chemutai won the women's 3000m steeplechase in 9:01.45 on Wednesday. She is the first Ugandan woman to win an Olympic gold. In fact, she is the first ever female Olympic medallist from the country.

The 3000m steeplechase (3000m SC) has been held for women only since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. While Kenyan women haven't been quite as dominant as their male counterparts in the event, there has always been a Kenyan on the podium. The Tokyo Olympics continued the tradition.

Uganda has a full set of Olympic medals from the Tokyo Olympics

If you had asked anyone which Ugandan could win a gold in Tokyo, the standard answer would have been Joshua Cheptegei, or even Jacob Kiplimo. But Chemutai clearly had her own plans.

In a race that was dictated by US runner Courtney Frerichs, who took off with over 800m to go, Chemutai was the only one to follow the move. Her diligence paid off as the brave Frerichs slowed a bit, and Chemutai seized the opportunity of a lifetime to win an Olympic gold. That adds to the silver and bronze won by the men in the 5000m race.

The favorites are surprised

Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng came into the Tokyo Olympics as the 3000m steeplechase silver medallist from Rio 2016. Hyvin has been in great form in 2021. She won the 3000m SC event at both the 2021 Monaco and the 2021 Stockholm Diamond League competitions, beating Beatrice Chepkoech and Emma Coburn among others.

However, she had to be content with the bronze medal as she finished in 9:05.39 behind Frerichs and Chemutai.

Beatrice Chepkoech finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, thanks to an unfortunate miss of the water jump while leading. However, she came into the Tokyo Olympics on the back of setting a world record in 5000m at the 2021 Monaco Diamond League meet.

She is also the current world champion, having won the 3000m SC event at the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships, and the world record holder in the 3000m SC event. Beatrice had set the world record at the 2018 Monaco Diamond League meet. But this race wasn't hers as she had faded by the time Frerichs made her move.

Courtney Frerichs has almost always been mentioned after Emma Coburn who, till date, was the runner with better global performances. Emma was the bronze medallist in the 3000m SC event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She had also led a rare US 1-2 at the 2017 London World Athletics Championships, finishing ahead of her compatriot Frerichs.

Frerichs also holds the US national record in the 3000m SC event.

Emma is amongst the more popular athletes on Instagram, with nearly half a million followers. However, she had a rather forgettable race, given her recent form.

But Courtney Frerichs came into the Tokyo Olympics intending to change the pecking order of US steeplechasers. She made a fantastic, unconventional move with over two laps to go and went into a lead that she kept until the last 100m or so. That brought her an Olympic silver in 9:04.79, her season's best.

Courtney Frerichs and Beatrice Chepkoech in their heat of the 3000m steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics
Courtney Frerichs and Beatrice Chepkoech in their heat of the 3000m steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics have seen a lot of inspirational performances and the women's 3000m steeplechase added yet another to that list to watch and savor.

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Edited by SANJAY K K
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