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Track and field's longest gold medal streak broken in stunning upset, U.S. now stands alone with record

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On Monday, a titanic gold medal streak ended.

For the first time in 41 years, Kenya didn't win the men's 3000m steeplechase. Their streak of nine straight gold medals was snapped by Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali, who took gold with a time of 8:09.90. El Bakkali was overcome with emotion, as his gold was not only Morocco's first-ever in that event, but Morocco's first medal at the Tokyo Games.

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Kenya also missed out on the silver medal, which was won by Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma, but secured bronze with a time of 8:11.45 from Benjamin Kigen.

For context, the last time Kenya didn't win the men's 3000m steeplechase was at the 1980 Olympics, a Games they didn't even compete in. 

With Kenya's stranglehold on the men's 3000m steeplechase broken by El Bakkali, the longest active track-and-field gold medal streak belongs to the U.S. women, who have won six straight golds in the 4x400m relay dating back to 1996.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 02: Soufiane El Bakkali of Team Morocco reacts as he wins the gold medal in the men's 3000 metres steeplechase on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 02: Soufiane El Bakkali of Team Morocco reacts as he wins the gold medal in the men's 3000 metres steeplechase on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Which country has the longest gold medal streak?

Kenya's nine straight gold medals wasn't just the longest active track and field streak. It had been tied with the United States for the longest active streak of gold medals by one country in one event. The U.S. had won nine straight golds in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay coming into Tokyo, and Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni, Bowe Becker, and Zach Apple won the 10th last week. Kenya needed a gold to keep pace, but El Bakkali ended that dream.

With Kenya's streak coming to an end, there are two countries with active streaks close to the United States' 10 straight golds. 

  • South Korea, which has won every single gold medal in women's team archery since it was introduced in 1988. They won the gold in Tokyo last week, which is an active streak of nine straight gold medals.

  • China has been dominant in diving for decades, and that hasn't changed in Tokyo. Shi Tingmao won gold in the women's 3m springboard on Sunday, giving China nine straight gold medals in that event.

  • China has also ruled in table tennis. Since the sport was introduced in 1988, Chinese women have won all eight gold medals in women's singles — a streak that continued in Tokyo. The gold medal match featured two Chinese women, with Chen Meng emerging victorious to give China its ninth straight gold medal. 

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