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Tokyo Olympics: Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali wins gold

El Bakkali's dazzling win has made him the first Moroccan Olympic champion since 2004
Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali celebrates winning the 3000m steeplechase final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, 2 August 2021 (AFP/Jewel Samad)

Soufiane El Bakkali has beaten the odds by winning Morocco’s first-ever gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, breaking Kenya’s 37-year dominance at the event.

The 25-year-old athlete finished in a time of 8:08.90, an incredible achievement having finished fourth in the 2016 Olympics in the same event. 

Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma claimed silver, while Benjamin Kigen of Kenya took bronze.

El Bakkali had previously won bronze in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Qatar and silver two years earlier in London.

The athlete’s victory in Tokyo has made history. He is the first Moroccan man to win in the event and the first Moroccan Olympics champion since Athens in 2004 when Hicham El Guerrouj won the gold medal in both the 1500 metres and the 5000 metres. 

El Bakkali qualified for the final after winning the 3000m Steeplechase Heat 3 on Friday with a time of 8:19:00, beating Topi Raitanen of Finland and Alexis Phelut of France, both of whom also progressed to the final.

El Bakkali is now looking ahead to Tuesday when he will take part in the third heat of the men’s 1500m for a chance to win a place in the final.