Steeplechasers are familiar with obstacles. Over the course of 3,000 meters, they must clear 28 waist-high barriers and seven water pits. On Monday night, though, in the early stages of the men’s final, they found themselves contending with a different sort of obstacle: a cameraman who had wandered onto the track.
The 15 men in the field successfully swerved around the cameraman, who had his back turned to them while he filmed the women’s triple jump nearby. But he flirted with disaster.
“I was a little worried that he was going to dart one way or another, right at the last second,” Evan Jager of the U.S. said, “but thankfully he didn’t realize we were there until we all passed him.”
The race itself was unusually slow until the last lap, when Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, the reigning Olympic champion, rocketed out of the final water pit to win his first world championship in 8 minutes 25.13 seconds. Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia was second and Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya finished third.
Jager, who won the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics and the bronze at the 2017 world championships, finished sixth in 8:29.08. After several injury-plagued years, he had returned this season with hopes of landing on the podium again but came away disappointed with his result.
“It’s been a long journey,” he said. “After I have a few hours to kind of let the emotions wear off, I’ll be very proud of myself. But pretty disappointed right now.”