Rio de Janeiro: Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto stormed to victory in the men’s 3,000 metre steeplechase final on Wednesday, ensuring the East African nation maintained its iron grip on the event it has won in every Games since 1984.
The 21-year-old had long been touted as the young pretender to Kenya’s steeplechase crown but he produced a final lap sprint that saw him grab gold in an Olympic record of 8 minutes 3.28 seconds.
A winner of two silver world championship medals, Kipruto was so far ahead of his rivals that he started celebrating and waving to the crowd at the start of the final straight.
Evan Jager won a rare medal for the United States in the race – their first since 1984 – after overtaking Kenya’s double Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi in the last 50m to take silver.
Kemboi, who won his fourth steeplechase world championship in a row last year, announced his retirement from athletics after the race.
“After 18 years I have done my best,” said 34-year-old Kemboi, who won gold at the Athens and London Games.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya sailed into the semi-finals of the 800m on Wednesday to remain on track for a gold medal almost certain to divide opinion.
The 25-year-old is the overwhelming favourite to add an Olympic gold in Rio to the silver she won in London four years ago, with a 2016 time that is nearly a second faster than her closest rivals.
She bided her time in Wednesday’s heats, smoothly accelerating through the field in the final 200m to win in 1 minute 59.31 seconds, around four seconds slower than her season best of 1:55.33.
Afterwards Semenya distanced herself from speculation that she could be poised to break the oldest record in women’s track and field – Jarmila Kratochvilova’s 33-year-old world best of 1:53.28.
“I am not focused on any world records, I am focused on enjoying my championship and it’s going to be a tough 800,” Semenya said.
“Times don’t matter but medals matter. I just want to run my own race and so far it’s been very good.”
Semenya has been at the centre of a raging controversy in recent years because of her naturally occurring condition, hyperandrogenism, which causes elevated testosterone levels.
Some of Semenya’s fellow 800m runners on Wednesday indicated, when pressed, that they wanted authorities to revisit rules that limit the amount of testosterone allowed in competitors.
“I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it’s probably something that needs to be revised after this,” said Ireland’s Ciara Everard, who failed to reach the semi-finals.
“I don’t think the consensus about it has been positive so maybe they’ll look to revise it. It’s a very sensitive issue and it needs to be dealt with sensitively.”
Meanwhile, Brazilian police arrested a member of the IOC’s executive board, Ireland’s Patrick Hickey, in his hotel in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday in connection with an investigation into ticket touting at the Olympics.
Police said in a statement they had discovered evidence linking Hickey to an international scheme to illegally pass Olympic tickets to touts who were reselling them at well above their original price.
Local media reported that Hickey, who also heads the European Olympic Committee (EOC), was detained at the hotel Windsor Marapendi near the Olympic Park and was rushed to hospital after his arrest.
An IOC spokesman declined to comment on the arrest but confirmed that Hickey had been taken to hospital.