Though P. Chemutai ‘s victory in the 3000m steeplechase will go down as one of the most shocking performances of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, he ultimately ran away with it.
If you’re a teenager and you placed fifth at the 2018 World Championships (in one of the deepest races of all time) and fifth in the 2019 World Cross, you should be a serious medal contender in Tokyo.
Beatrice Chepkoech, Emma Coburn, and Hyvin Kiyeng, the three most recent world champions, had received a disproportionate amount of media coverage in the lead-up to the race.
P. Chemutai Olympic Career
Meanwhile, P. Chemutai arrived in Tokyo relatively unheralded because she had placed well behind the leaders in both of her international races this year. She felt as good as she ever had as she lined up for the final after running a season-best time of 9:12.72 in her heat.
All the major contenders appeared to be very comfortable with the pace, and she led a large pack through the first kilometre in 3 minutes, 05 seconds. At 4:30, after another lap, 2017 global silver medalist Courtney Frerichs of the United States of America took the lead and began to pull away from the rest of the pack.
All save P. Chemutai followed Frerichs, while the rest of the pursuers appeared content to wait for him to return.
However, this was never the case. Rather, she increased her advantage, and with two laps remaining, the North American record holder had a five-meter lead over P. Chemutai and a 10-meter lead over the rest of the chasers.
Frerichs crossed the finish line at 7:51, and although she kept up a respectable pace, her resolve was beginning to show signs of strain. With 250 metres to go, P. Chemutai was closing down on the long-time leader when she took advantage of an opening in the middle of the back straight and surged to the lead.
P. Chemutai: First Ugandan Woman to Win an Olympic Medal
P. Chemutai never looked back from that point on, flying over the final water jump with her feet barely brushing the barrier, and roaring down the home straight to take first place in a time of 9 minutes and 1.45 seconds. Silver medalist Frerichs finished with a personal best time of 9 minutes, 4.79 seconds.
For P. Chemutai , who becomes the first Ugandan woman to win an Olympic medal of any colour in any sport, the words “I’m so delighted, it is such a surprise” do not seem adequate to express her elation.
P. Chemutai competed for the first time on the world stage at the 2016 World U20 Championships, and then, only a few weeks after turning 17, she competed in her first Olympic Games, where she placed seventh in her heat.
In 2019, she placed sixth at both the World Cross and the World Championships, building on her 2018 silver medal at the U20 World Championships.