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Athletics-Lamecha tops 3000m steeplechase heats, to take on Kenyans in finals

Athletics-Lamecha tops 3000m steeplechase heats, to take on Kenyans in finals
July 30, 2021 --- Web Desk

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma cruised to the final of the men's 3,000 metres steeplechase on Friday with the fastest time of the round of 8:09.83, sending a signal he will be one of the contenders to watch going into the medal round early next week.

The 20-year-old world silver-medalist at the 2019 world championships in Doha boasts the world's leading time this year of 8:07.75 he posted at the Diamond League meet in Monaco earlier this month.

This year's 3,000m steeplechase finals on Monday is wide open as the defending champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya failed to qualify for the tournament and will not defend his title he won five years ago in Rio.

The East African nation have won nine straight Olympic golds at the Olympics since 1984 and will look to Abraham Kibiwot, who had the second fastest time this year and advanced to the final with a 8:12.25 finish on Friday, to bring the medal home.

"The race was good, it was actually fantastic," he said. "Tokyo is hot, the temperature is high but we are making Kenya proud so we don't mind."

Kenya will have another contender in the final in Benjamin Kigen who qualified with his season's best time of 8:10.80.

"I know we have to fight in the finals," he said. "My target was to first qualify and now I will fight for a medal."

The Kenyans will battle it out for podium finishes with their Ethiopian neighbours, as Lamecha's compatriot Getnet Wale also made it to the finals.

Japan's Ryuji Miura, 19, produced a national record timing of 8:09.92 to make it to the final, and he will have the support of the entire host nation to help challenge for medals.

"I'm very surprised by my record today but I could achieve my goal to go to (the) final race," he said after the race.

Also looking to break-up the Kenyan and Ethiopian party will be Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali, 25, the silver medalist in the 2017 world championships in London and the bronze medalist in the championships in Doha who had the third fastest time this year.

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