Your editor watched Saif Saaeed Shaheen battle Brahim Boulami in Portland, Oregon, in 2002 at the adidas Oregon Track Classic. In one of the finest steeplechase races in North America ever, Boulami won an epic battle, 8:04.51 to Shaheen’s 8:05.75.
The adidas Oregon Track Classic, managed by the late Paul Banta and sponsored by adidas, was ahead of its time. They showcased the shot put an hour before the meet, did contests with javelin throwers, 10,000m, and other events going up for nice prize purses based on performance tables. Your editor does not recall missing a year of the adidas Oregon Track Classic.
Not since Boulami and Shaheen have we seen two athletes so matched in the steeplechase as El Bakkali and Girma. We can not wait until Budapest for this battle royale!
Thanks, Deji Ogeyingbo, for this smart feature!
Lamecha Girma chased El Bakkali for years. Now, he stands tall as the record-breaker in the 3000m Steeplechase.
Lamecha Girma kept shifting his face sideways and sometimes backward with three laps to go in Paris. It felt involuntary because he had an almost 100m gap with the rest of the chasing pack at that point. Deep down, he knew he was chasing the world record, but his instincts won’t allow him to let his rivals overtake him.
Maybe he’s used to chasing Moroccan world and Olympic Champion Soufiane El Bakkali and just doesn’t want to leave anything to chance, but the moment he began to hear the cheers of the crowd and probably the motivation of witnessing Faith Kipyegon breaking the women’s 5000m world record earlier, the young Ethiopian quickly shifted his gaze on breaking Saif Saaeed Shaheen’s 19-year record of 7:53.63.
As Girma cleared each hurdle with grace and precision, the crowd could sense something extraordinary was unfolding. The clock ticked away, and when Girma finally crossed the finish line, the collective gasp of astonishment echoed throughout the stadium. The time displayed on the board, 7:52:11, was not just a new personal best for Girma but a world record shattered.
Not that the result was in doubt. Here is a man who broke the world indoor 3000m record in February with a stunning 7:23.81. Girma opened his season over the same distance in the first Diamond League of the season in Doha. His confidence level was sky-high that the meet organizers officially tagged it a world record attempt. In Rabat, a few weeks back El-Bakkali had set the world lead with 7:56.68. Here in Paris, Girma broke shattered it into smatterings.
Lamecha Girma, art designed by Deji Ogeyingbo/Orig photo from Diamond League AG
Girma’s meteoric rise to success, after years of playing second fiddle to El Bakkali, is a testament to his unyielding determination and his recent achievements. Girma watched from the sidelines for the last few years as El Bakkali dominated the steeplechase scene. El Bakkali’s consistent excellence and record-breaking performances cast a long shadow over Girma’s own aspirations. However, Girma’s breakthrough performance in February, where he shattered the 3000m indoor world record, marked a turning point in his career.
The Paris Diamond League became the stage for Girma to exhibit his newfound prowess and to transcend his role as the perpetual runner-up. With a fierce determination burning within him, Girma set off on a race that would define his career and rewrite history. With every stride, he displayed an unwavering focus, an agility that seemed otherworldly, and an indomitable spirit that pushed him beyond his limits. In that moment, he had emerged from the shadows, capturing the attention and admiration of the entire athletics world.
Girma has been a different athlete since his groundbreaking performance in Lievin in February. The weight of playing second fiddle has been lifted, replaced by newfound confidence and self-belief. He has honed his skills, pushing himself further in training and leaving no stone unturned in his pursuit of excellence. With the 3000m steeplechase world record firmly in his grasp, Girma is now focused on future competitions, including Budapest’s highly anticipated World Championships.
The rivalry between Girma and El Bakkali has been one of mutual respect and relentless pursuit of greatness. While El Bakkali has held the upper hand in recent years, Girma’s recent performances have signaled a changing of the guard. The Ethiopian’s relentless drive, coupled with his newfound confidence, has closed the gap between them. The stage is set for a clash of titans, a battle that promises to captivate the sporting world and determine who truly reigns supreme.
Lamecha Girma, WR photo by Marta Gorczynska, Diamong League AG for Diamond League
Looking ahead, Girma’s journey is one filled with promise, determination, and the pursuit of even greater accomplishments. His world record-breaking feat has only served to fuel his ambitions, and he is now poised to take on the world’s best with unwavering resolve.
Girma has emerged as a beacon of hope and inspiration in a sport where records are constantly challenged and redefined. His journey from playing second fiddle to rewriting the record books serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and self-belief. As he continues to push boundaries and defy expectations, Girma is destined to etch his name among the legends of the steeplechase.
The world watches eagerly as this remarkable athlete continues to break barriers, leaving an indelible mark on the sport he loves. Lamecha Girma, the once chaser, has risen to become a true record-breaker, and his remarkable journey is far from over. In fact, it’s just starting.