Moses Kiptanui: The steeplechase trailblazer

Moses Kiptanui became the first man to run the 3000m steeplechase in under eight minutes when he clocked 7 minutes 59.18 seconds on 16 August 1995 in Zurich, Switzerland – breaking his previous world record of 8 minutes 02. 08 seconds  which had stood for nearly three years.

Who is Moses Kiptanui?

Born on 1 October 1970 in Marakwet, Kenya, Kiptanui burst on the scene during the IAAF World Junior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He won the gold medal in the 1500m in a championship record time of 3 minutes 38.32 seconds.

In 1991, he ran in and won several IAAF Grand Prix races, including a spectacular win in Zurich where he fell on the track during the last lap of the steeplechase but still registered an easy win. He carried his good form to that year’s IAAF World Championships in Tokyo, Japan where he won gold in 8 minutes 12.59 seconds with countryman Patrick Sang’ taking silver in 8 minutes `13.44 seconds.

He was not included in the Kenyan team to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain after failing to qualify during the Kenyan trials in Nairobi.

31 Aug 1991: Moses Kiptanui of Kenya celebrates his first place in the 3000 metres steeplechase at the world athletic championships in the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK

Kiptanui bounced back in devastating fashion, setting a new world record over the 3000m flat when he ran 7 minutes 28.96 seconds in Cologne, Germany. He then took 3.27 seconds Peter Koech’s steeplechase world record of 8 minutes 05.35 seconds which had stood since 1989 when he ran 8 minutes 02.08 seconds on 19 August 1992 at the Weltklasse meet in Zurich.

Racing at the IAAF World Championships of 1993 in Stuttgart,Germany, Kiptanui successfully defended his world title in a championship record time of 8 minutes 06.36 seconds – again beating Patrick Sang to second place in 8 minutes 07.53 seconds.

In 1995, Kiptanui shaved 1.6 seconds off Haile Gebreselassie’s 5000m world record when he clocked 12 minute 55.30 seconds.

Aug 1997: Wilson Boit- Kipketer, Moses Kiptanui and Barnard Barmasi of Kenya embrace each other after winning the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively in the 3000 metres Steeplechase final during the World Championships at the Olympic Stadium inAthens, Greece. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell/Allsport

He then won his third successive IAAF World Championships in Gothenburg,Sweden , bettering his championship record in 8 minutes 04.16 seconds with fellow Kenyan Christopher Koskei claiming silver in 8 minutes 09.30 seconds. Returning to Zurich just days after the worlds, Kiptanui became the first man in history to run the steeplechase in under eight minutes with that 7:59.18 timing in Zurich on 16 August 1995.

The record has since been lowered four times by Kenyans Wilson Boit Kipketer (7:59.08 in 1997 ), Bernard Barmasai (7:55.72 in 1997), Morocco’s Brahim Boulami (7:55.28 in 2001) and former Kenyan Stephen Cherono who raced for Qatar as Saif Saaaeed Shaheen who holds the current record of 7 minutes 53.63 set in 2004 in Brussels, Belgium.

Kiptanui finally qualified for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA but missed out on the coveted gold medal, settling for silver in 8 minutes 08.33 seconds behind Kenya’s Joseph Keter who won the gold in 8 minutes 07.12 seconds.

He would then settle for silver at the 1997 IAAF World Championships in Athens in a time of 8 minutes 06.04 seconds with countrymen Wilson Boit Kipketer claiming gold in 8 minutes 05.84 seconds and Bernard Barmasai taking the bronze in 8:06.04.  This was the last major medal of Kiptanui’s stellar career.

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