2023 Year in Review: How Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali and Ethiopian Lamecha Girma dominated the men’s 3000m steeplechase


In the 2023 Men’s 3000m steeplechase season, Ethiopian athlete Lamecha Girma and Moroccan champion Soufiane El Bakkali emerged as dominant forces, showcasing their prowess on the global stage.

Girma, a double world record-breaker during the year, experienced a bittersweet moment as he secured his fourth consecutive silver medal at the world level.

The ultimate triumph, however, eluded him as El Bakkali, the reigning world and Olympic champion, displayed his familiar prowess to claim the gold in 8:03.53.

Girma, who had previously set a world indoor 3000m record and shattered the longstanding steeplechase record with a remarkable 7:52.11, sought to capitalize on his newfound status.

Yet, reminiscent of their previous encounters in the World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics, El Bakkali’s exceptional final sprint thwarted Girma’s aspirations.

Crossing the finish line in 8:05.44, Girma’s stoic expression belied the disappointment of narrowly missing the top podium.

In contrast, El Bakkali, overcome with emotion, prostrated himself in prayer before collecting the flag and heartfelt congratulations from his loved ones.

Reflecting on his victory, El Bakkali expressed pride in bringing home another gold, emphasizing the strong field that included athletes of Girma’s caliber.

The Moroccan champion’s focus now extends to the Paris Olympic Games, fueled by the motivation derived from his recent success.

The race witnessed a separate drama for the bronze, with Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot overcoming a fall over a barrier on the final lap to secure third place in 8:11.98.

Girma, aiming to be the first Ethiopian to clinch the world title, faced the inevitable outcome despite leading his rival at the bell. El Bakkali’s surge on the final bend sealed his victory, leaving Girma with a fourth global silver but an undeterred spirit for future competitions.

Girma’s journey throughout the season showcased his exceptional skills, breaking world records and setting personal bests. Despite falling short of his immediate goal, the 22-year-old Ethiopian remains focused on achieving gold in future World Championships or Olympic Games.

The World Athletics rankings for the season reflect El Bakkali’s dominance at the top, followed closely by Girma, with both athletes poised for continued rivalry and excellence in the coming years.

World Athletics Rankings:

  1. Soufiane El Bakkali (MAR) – 1474
  2. Lamecha Girma (ETH) – 1434
  3. Simon Kiprop Koech (KEN) – 1408
  4. Abraham Kibiwot (KEN) – 1399
  5. Getnet Wale (ETH) – 1363
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