KENYA’S BEATRICE CHEPKOECH made sure that the pace for the final of the women’s steeplechase would be honest. She went to the front almost immediately.
From the fore the 32-year-old WR holder led 5 others under 3:00 for the first kilometer — two Kenyan teammates, Ethiopia’s Sembo Almayew, Uganda’s Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai and a 2-time World Champs 4th-place finisher. That last was Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi, 23 years old.
As the field reached 2K at 5:57.75, the number of women running sub-9:00 pace had dropped to three: Chepkoech, Yavi, and Faith Cherotich.
Over the next 500m, as Cherotich slowed incrementally to just outside sub-9 tempo, Yavi trucked along eager to this time score a medal. The shiniest kind, as it would turn out.
With just over a lap to go, Yavi — Kenyan-born and with Bahrain affiliation since ’15 when she was 16 — decided the race was hers for the taking. She decisively moved to the front, with only Chepkoech and Cherotich close.
By 300 to go Yavi’s rat-a-tat-tat hammering — 33.47 split from 2500–2700, with barriers, remember — had shattered the semblance of a contest. She ran all the way to a world-leading time of 8:54.29 for the victory, with Chepkoech 2nd at 8:58.98 and Cherotich, last year’s Junior (U20) champion, 3rd in a PR 9:00.69.
“It was a fast race but I did not realize it was that fast,” said the winner. “I knew I would have the power on the last lap. It was perfect.
“I have never felt like this before. I worked hard and I am grateful for this amazing achievement. After finishing 4th at the past two World Championships, the gold medal gives me additional motivation to train hard.”
Chepkoech, the ’19 world champion dogged by injury the last several seasons, said the silver felt like gold, and that “coming back is something special for me. It has been hard. Since the Tokyo Olympics I have been struggling and I thought I might never come back but tonight proves I am still strong.
“I train with [Kenya’s 800 winner Mary Moraa], but I couldn’t watch her race [20 minutes before the steeple start]. I am so happy for her because it has been so long she has been waiting for this. It is an incredible night for Kenya.”
Bronze medalist Cherotich said afterwards, “9:00 is a fantastic time. I know I am in…