Jebet smashes 3,000m steeplechase world record

PARIS • Kenyan-born Olympic champion Ruth Jebet obliterated the 3,000m steeplechase world record on Saturday at the Paris Diamond League.

On a sultry Parisian evening, the Bahraini, having transferred allegiance to the Gulf state in February 2013 as a 16-year-old, produced an outstanding effort.

"I'm so happy. I've tried to beat the world record several times, but tonight we decided to push ourselves to go looking for a good time," said Jebet, now 19.

"The pacemaker was very strong. She was at the Games... I wasn't expecting such a difference with the previous record."

Jebet clocked 8min 52.78sec, smashing the previous record of 8:58.81 achieved by Russian Gulnara Galkina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Jebet, who now owns three of the four fastest times in history, won Olympic gold in Rio with 8:59.75, the second-fastest time ever in the event, having also clocked 8:59.97 at the Eugene meet in the United States last May.

Jebet's victory shone the light on what the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has conceded is one of its most challenging problems - the transference of allegiance of athletes.

Many distance runners from east Africa now compete under the flags of Gulf nations, while Morocco, Jamaica and Nigeria-born athletes are also seen to be running for other countries.

"We want to make stricter the rules on transfers of allegiance," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said at the Stade de France, with Jebet saying she quit Kenya five years ago for "animal health" studies.

France's IAAF Council member Bernard Amsalem has been charged with investigating the trade in athletes.

"We'll go looking for the athletes in mainly Kenya, but also Ethiopia, Morocco, Jamaica a little bit and Nigeria increasingly for the sprinters," he said.

"Poor countries, in difficulty. It's easier to turn an athlete of those countries by giving them a lot of money because it represents a lot compared to their daily wage."

Jebet's father gave the game away when she was honoured in Kenya for her Olympic gold, thanking her for enabling him to buy a house and cattle.

Jebet's irritated manager Marc Corstjens cut conversation short in Paris.

"Tomorrow, we'll return to Bahrain where the king awaits her for an official ceremony," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Jebet smashes 3,000m steeplechase world record'. Subscribe