BUDAPEST (19-Aug) — In the first round of the men’s 3000m steeplechase on Day 1 at the 2023 World Athletics Championships here in Budapest, the impact of the new qualifying system was on full display. Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkal was one of the men booking their places in the final, but races weren’t without drama.
New Qualifying Rules Made The Men’s 3000m Steeplechase Interesting
With no time qualifiers allowed, only the top five athletes from each of the three heats could advance to the final. Predictably, that led to last-lap burn-ups in all three heats. – Read more: Sifan Hassan falls, Ethiopians sweep 10,000m podium: World Championships 2023
“I was really in my head and I was ready for any scenario,” said Canada’s Jean-Simon Desgagnés, who competed in the first heat.
Desgagnés, the reigning Canadian champion, ran mid-pack for the first kilometer then moved up to fifth by the end of the second.
He kept the key contenders –Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale and Kenya’s Simon Koech– within close range, then made sure he had enough gas for the final circuit.
“It went out a little bit slow for these guys, Desgagnés continued. “I knew I was preparing for it, I was ready for it. I was just trying to stay (in) contact with the lead pack, and I kicked for the last 800, 400. So it was perfect.”
Desgagnés finished second in 8:20.04 to Wale’s 8:19.99. Koech got third in 8:20.29 and, like Desgagnés and Wale, advanced to the final. The lone American in the heat, Benard Keter, finished eight in 8:24.20 and failed to advance.
Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkal Safely Through
American champion Kenneth Rooks of Brigham Young University was the surprise winner of the second heat, just pipping reigning world and Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco.
Both men were given the same time of 8:23.66. Rooks –competing in his first global championships after winning the USA title despite falling over a barrier– said that all of the racing he did during the NCAA season made him well-prepared.
“I’ve had a lot of racing experience this year,” Rooks told Race Results Weekly. “It helped me get ready for that kind of racing.”
He added: “That was in my mind. I was just trying to stay relaxed with two laps to go. I was feeling good; I just had to move up a little bit.”
Failing to advance from the second heat was Ethiopia’s Abrham Sime, who had a season’s best of 8:10.56. He finished eighth in 8:31.49.
The gold medal favorite, Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma, won the third and final heat. The current world record holder, with a personal best of 7:52.11, controlled the race from the gun and clocked 8:15.89.
Second went to New Zealand’s Geordie Beamish of the On Athletics Club who was competing in his first major championships in this discipline (he ran the 5000m in Eugene last year). He clocked 8:16.36.
“I’m still a miler,” Beamish joked with reporters in the mixed zone.
Kenya’s Leonard Bett, another medal contender, got third in 8:16.74 just ahead of Japan’s national record holder Ryuji Miura, one of two Japanese to make the final.
Click here for the results summary