Kenya is the most successful nation in the steeplechase. It has won every men’s title since 1968, with the exceptions of 1976 and 1980, which Kenya boycotted. It had medals sweeps in 1992 and 2004. Finland is the next most successful nation with four gold medals. Finland in 1928 and Sweden in 1948 also have had medal sweeps. Kenya is also the most successful nation in the developing women’s event, winning three of the 9 medals awarded since women started running the event in the Olympics, plus Kenyan born and still resident, 2016 champion Ruth Jebet switched allegiance to Bahrain for financial reasons.
The men’s 3000 metres steeplechase has been present on the Olympic athletics programme since 1920. The women’s event is the most recent addition to the programme, having been added at the 2008 Olympics. It is the most prestigious steeplechase track race at elite level.
The Olympic records for the event are 8:03.28 minutes for men, set by Conseslus Kipruto in 2016, and 8:58.81 minutes for women, set by Gulnara Galkina in 2008. The IAAF officially recognises men’s steeplechase world records after 1954, but unofficial world records were set in 1928, 1936 and 1952. Anders Gärderud’s time of 8:08.2 minutes from 1976 remains the only ratified men’s steeplechase world record at the Olympics. Galkina’s time was also a world record.
Only two athletes have won multiple Olympic steeplechase titles Volmari Iso-Hollo (1932 and 1936) and Ezekiel Kemboi (2004 and 2012). Competitors in the steeplechase are normally event-specialists, although former champions Iso-Hollo, Ville Ritola and Kipchoge Keino all won Olympic medals in other distance running events.