Kenyan trio determined to nip Bakkali threat in steeplechase

World under-20 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Bett says they are aware of the threat posed by the Morrocan and will work hard to deny him a podium finish.

In Summary

•The Africa Under-20 3000m steeplechase champion says they have been working as a team in training and want to claim all the podium places

•Other Kenyan representatives in the steeplechase include Abraham Kibiwott and Benjamin Kigen

•Personally, Bett, who set a personal best of 8:08.61 in 2019, has set sights on gold

Leonard Bett in action during the Athletics Kenya Mountain running championships in Naivasha
Leonard Bett in action during the Athletics Kenya Mountain running championships in Naivasha

World Under-20 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Leonard Bett says they have devised a strategy to sweep all the podium places in the men's 3,000m steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Bett, who will be flying the Kenyan flag alongside Abraham Kibiwott and Benjamin Kigen, said they are fully aware of the threat presented by Morrocan Soufiane El Bakkali and will work hard to deny him a place on the podium. 

"He is somebody we have met several times in the Diamond Leagues and in the world championships. He is a great runner but nonetheless we do not fear anybody because we are confident about what we have learnt in training. Even though we come from different camps, we have been working together as Team Kenya to see how we can sweep all the podium places," Bett said. 

The trio has come up against the Moroccan before, two years ago at the World Championship in Doha, Qatar, where Bakkali finished third behind winner Conseslus Kipruto and second placed Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia. 

It was a disappointing outing for the three Kenyans, however, as Kigen, Kibiwott and Bett finished sixth, seventh and ninth respectively. 

With the absence of Kipruto, the Africa Under-20 3000m steeplechase champion admits the burden to maintain Kenya's stranglehold on the water and hurdles race lies squarely on their shoulders. 

"Of course, there's always pressure as was the case with the World Championship and even with the Diamond League. But this is the Olympics and being my first ever I'd admit the pressure is a bit too high. However, we are also confident because we have trained hard and worked on our strategy. Steeplechase has been Kenya's domain for many years and we are motivated to ensure it remains our own," he said. 

Kenya has won the steeplechase event at the Olympics a record  11 times, with Kipruto's win at the Rio Olympics in 2016 cementing the country's status as a powerhouse.

Personally, Bett, who set a personal best of 8:08.61 in 2019, has set sights on gold, describing it as the icing on the cake that is his senior career. 

"Everyone competing at the Olympics is aiming for gold and that is what I also want. As a team, we need the support of all Kenyans and ask that they put us in prayer. We know there will be no fans in the stadium but are inspired by the knowledge that they will be cheering us on from wherever they are. Wearing the Kenyan singlet and flying the Kenyan flag is a source of pride and I promise to give it my best," he said. 

The next six batches of the athletics delegation will depart the country from Friday, July 23 to Saturday, August 1, after sprinters who left for Kurume City on July 13.