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Anatomy of a Steeple Squabble

Anatomy of a Steeple Squabble

| On 02, Jun 2013

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The results from Saturday’s 3,000 steeplechase will say Conseslus Kipruto won the race in 8:03.59 and that Ezekiel Kemboi, the two-time gold medalist in the event, was disqualified. But that won’t tell the whole story.  Let’s relive the final fifty meters and the controversial aftermath.


Kemboi (in the gold jersey), Kipruto (blue) have just cleared the final barrier. Kemboi’s lead is dwindling. Kipruto, who at 19-years-old came into the race with the world-leading time, is closing quickly. Notice both men are running on the inside of lane 2.


With about 50 meters to go, Kipruto has now moved into lane one. Kemboi has noticed that his countryman is closing the gap. He also begins moving toward lane one. Maybe he is unaware that the distance to the finish line is the same regardless of what lane he is in….or maybe……


Oh, I see what he is doing now! Kipruto is almost to the rain and Kemboi is still moving in. This is the move that runners at every level contemplate using at least once in their careers during a period of desperation and oxygen debt.

I’m completely dying, this guy is going to catch me. Can I run him off the track….I’m in front….I deserve lane one….if I do it gradually maybe nobody will notice.


Not gradual enough. We have contact. Kemboi’s left arm is extended and Kipruto is heading toward lane zero. What happens when a resistible force meets a movable object?

With Kiprutio off the track, Kemboi’s railroading is complete. His still-extended arm gives us a peek at the next stage of his strategy–feign shock at the contact he initiated and then play the victim.  You don’t get to be Olympic champion two times without being able to strategize on your feet.

Kipruto recovers nicely from the push and manages to avoid the signage and wiring on the side of the track. After three steps inside the curb, he hops back into lane one to hit the tape first. The contact killed Kemboi’s momentum.  Now he begins to realize that not only will he lose the race, but he embarrassed himself in the process.

Great shot here. Kipruto is confused. Kemboi goes to the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag to show how offended he is at the tactics. Paul Koech (finishing third in the Kenyan jersey) is breaking the imaginary tape. Is he just happy to be finished? Or is already predicting a double disqualification that will lead to a win for him?


The early results before Kemboi was disqualified. The rabbit in the race Haron Lagat (in the foreground with his back to the camera) is playing peacemaker. Does he get paid extra for that? The man in the white shirt begs for calm.

Family member of the man in the white shirt: How was the Pre Classic?

Man in the white shirt: It was great, but after the men’s steeplechase I had to get in between two Kenyans.

Family member: Whoa! Did it get violent?

Man in the white shirt: No, I just kind of stood there and they both walked away.


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