On Tuesday evening (8.42pm), the World Athletics Championships in Budapest will see a summit duel between Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali and Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma in the 3,000 m steeplechase.
El Bakkali, Olympic and world champion in his steeple category, and Ethiopia’s Girma, record-holder in the event, will go head-to-head in this highly anticipated race at this 19th edition of the World Athletics Championships.
The first confrontation of the year between these two champions promises to be particularly hotly contested, given their current form and recent performances.
El Bakkali and Girma have qualified for the final of the event with flying colors, and are hoping to be at the top of their game to claim the world title, won by the Moroccan champion in Eugene, USA, in 2022, after having already made a splash at the Tokyo-2021 Olympic Games by winning gold.
In both Tokyo and Eugene, El Bakkali’s runner-up was none other than Girma, who on both occasions saw his title hopes dashed in the face of the Moroccan champion’s domination.
Unbeaten since September 2021, Soufiane El Bakkali (27) is the undisputed world number 1 in the 3,000 m steeplechase, having put an end to Kenyan hegemony in the discipline. His world title in Eugene put an end to a series of 7 consecutive Kenyan world titles, the last two of which were won by Conselsus Kipruto.
Having made it into the Top 5 of the final shortlist for the World Athletics Awards 2022 thanks to his outstanding performances, the Fez-born athlete continued his momentum into 2023, clocking a season’s best WPA (World Best Performance) of 7:56.68 on May 28 at the Meeting international Mohammed VI d’athlétisme, before winning the 3,000 m steeplechase at the Stockholm (July 2) and Silesia (July 16) meetings, also counting towards the Diamond League, confirming his unchallenged domination of the event.
His rival, Lamecha Girma (22), made his mark this year by beating the 3,000 m steeplechase world record, held since 2004 by Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen, at the Paris meeting (Diamond League) in June, with a time of 7:52:11.
This feat made the young Ethiopian one of the favourites to win the Budapest World Championships.
Despite his recent performances and world record, Lamecha Girma, silver medallist at the Tokyo Olympics and at the 2022 and 2019 World Championships, will be up against the undisputed master of the 3,000 m steeplechase on Tuesday evening. With his experience, mastery and confidence still high, Girma intends to defend his title tooth and nail, to raise the national flag and add to his already impressive list of achievements.