Zaripova wins Olympic women's steeplechase

Yuliya Zaripova ensured the only two Olympic gold medals ever awarded in the women's 3,000 metres steeplechase will now reside in the Russian republic of Tatarstan with a dominant display of front-running.


The 26-year-old led from to gun to tape at a rainy Olympic Stadium and stormed across the finish line well clear of the field in a personal best nine minutes 06.72 seconds, the fourth quickest of all time.

"It was easy to win this gold, I was very confident about winning, I'm very good at steeplechase," she said, barefoot and grinning ear-to-ear in the bowels of the stadium.

"I ran in third, then fourth, then fifth gear. Technically, I executed the race well.

"Towards the end I saw the scoreboard, I could hear the roar in the stadium but I kept my concentration to the very end. With the steeplechase you cannot be sure until the end.

"I could have gone faster but I didn't want to risk losing the gold."

Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia, who finished second behind Zaripova at the world championships in Daegu last year, won silver in 9:08.37, a national record, and Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa took bronze in 9:09.84.

"I did think at one point I could win a gold medal but I had an injury at the beginning of the year so I had to get over that," said Ghribi. "The Russian girl was very, very good."

The only previous winner of the event, which made its Olympic debut four years ago in Beijing, was Gulnara Galkina, who is also from Tatarstan.

The world record holder, who ran the only sub-nine minute time ever to win gold four years ago, took a year off to have a baby in 2010 and was unable to finish the race on Monday, pulling up injured.

"I was very sad about Gulnara not finishing," said Zaripova.

"I hope that more people in Tatarstan will start supporting our sport."

Zaripova, a fifth year student in physical education, postponed her final exams from May to September to focus on training for her first Olympics.

"Training was not so good at the start but I started getting better and better and more and more confident," she said. "I came here to win gold but it's still sinking in that I've done it."

Zaripova's one concern before the race, she joked, was that a lack of hot water in the Athletes' Village might result in her catching a cold.

Her husband and daughter remained in Russia but Zaripova plans to remain in London for a few days for a bit of souvenir shopping before returning to prepare for her exams.

"I'm resigned to not having much sleep tonight," she said.

"I'm going to be pretty busy."

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