By Lori Ewing
BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Olympic gold medallist Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco claimed his second consecutive world championship title in the men’s 3,000 metres steeplechase on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old held off world record holder and Olympic silver medallist Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia to win in eight minutes 3.53 seconds and then laid down in the water hazard in celebration on a humid night at the National Athletics Centre.
“After winning in Eugene last year, I am really proud to bring home another gold,” said El Bakkali.
“I had great preparations for these championships but today’s field was very strong with athletes like Lamecha.
“I came ready and prepared and believed I could win. This medal gives me additional motivation for the Olympic Games in Paris. I want to win there too,” he added.
The 22-year-old Girma, who blazed to 7:52.11 at the Paris Diamond League on June 9 to break the 19-year-old world record, lost contact with El Bakkali over the final water jump en route to his third world silver in 8:05.44.
“I am satisfied with every single race against El Bakkali,” Girma said. “I still aim to win gold at the World Championships or Olympic Games. Nothing has changed in my goals.
“Maybe I became even more motivated for next year. In any case, I continue fighting and dreaming about world gold.”
Kenyan Abraham Kibiwot clipped a barrier and fell heading into the final lap but scrambled back to his feet and then overtook team mate Leonard Kipkemoi Bett to take a well-earned bronze in 8:11.98.
“It’s my first time to actually win a medal at the World Championships, I came here to finally take a medal home with me,” Kibiwot said.
“It was a good race – even if I fell when we started the last lap there was no question I would make it to the podium.
“At these times there is no tiredness. I feel so great, this is even more than happiness.”
(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Ken Ferris)