The men’s 3000m steeplechase final was going to be a duel between the world and Olympic champion versus the world record-holder. It was a close call.
The main actors in this show had only gone head-to-head once this season in Doha, where Lamecha Girma won, and both were the only two athletes in the line up to have run inside eight minutes this year.
Girma had smashed the world record at the Paris Diamond League in June, clocking an astonishing 7:52.11, and then refrained from racing. Two-time world gold medallist Soufiane El Bakkali competed in three more meetings, taking victories in each of them and looking set for a successful title defence.
Both looked good in the heats, but the final was an entirely different ballgame. In his usual style, the Olympic champion remained behind the pack while Girma, who was behind initially, began to make a move to the middle.
His Moroccan rival watched his every move, waiting for the right time to strike. At 1000m, El Bakkali made his way to the middle while Girma had moved to second place, and with four laps to go, the 27-year-old fell into third place in the line.
He took the bell, switching gears to go past the rest of the field. The 22-year-old left it too late before responding but El Bakkali was long gone, leading by almost 20 metres to claim a second successive world title in 8:03.53, while Girma was left to lick his wounds with a fourth consecutive global silver in 8:05.44.
Despite suffering a fall over one of the barriers, Commonwealth Games champion Abraham Kibiwot was able to pip his teammate Leonard Kipkemoi Bett to the bronze with 8:11.98.