Abeba Aregawi has carried all before her this year.
Undefeated at 1500m indoors or out, she has won at five IAAF Diamond League meetings and capped a brief indoor campaign by winning the European indoor title for her adopted Sweden.
It looked that way last year, too, especially after Aregawi, then running for her native Ethiopia, blasted out a personal best 3:56.54 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome.
However, it did not work out that way at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Aregawi was caught out of position in a slow, tactical race, had to work hard to get into contention and then almost fell in the last few metres before finishing fifth.
The winner of that race, Turkey’s Asli Cakir Alptekin, has been provisionally suspended due to irregularities in her biological passport, but Aregawi also finished behind Turkish silver medallist Gamze Bulut of Turkey, Bahrain’s Maryam Yusuf Jamal and Russia’s Tatyana Tomashova.
Nevertheless, Aregawi has looked a different runner this year.
She started fast enough, winning in Doha in 3:56.60 from Kenya’s 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships winner Faith Kipyegon, who clocked a national record of 3:56.98, and Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, third in 3:57.54, in what remain the three fastest times of the year; but her races since have been more to the tactical end of the spectrum.
New York produced diabolical stormy weather, but Aregawi won easily from Kenya’s Hellen Obiri. In Rome, her 4:00.23 put her more than a second to the good against her regular rival Dibaba and she enjoyed similarly comfortable margins of victory in moderately-timed races at the Diamond League meetings in Birmingham and Lausanne.
All up, Aregawi has shown she can run, and win, in fast races or slow, and that her ability to produce unanswerable speed at the finish is undiminished in either case.
Provided that she avoids tactical blunders, it makes for a more formidable package than a year ago.
Aregawi did not race in Monaco, where USA’s defending World champion Jenny Simpson beat a strong field in her season’s best 4:00.48.
It was a surprise to all – Simpson included – when the US athlete won in Daegu, sweeping past her rivals in the home straight. On her Monaco form, where she beat Obiri, her US team-mates Brenda Martinez (who will run the 800m in Moscow) and Jamal, among others, it would be no surprise should she do so again.
With her tactical intelligence well suited to championship racing, Simpson looks a good bet to get a medal again.
There will be much interest, too, in Simpson’s teammate, Mary Cain. The youngest athlete (who turned 17 on 3 May) ever to represent the USA at a World Championships, Cain is coached by Alberto Salazar and has the immense support from a programme which also backs double Olympic champion Mo Farah. A medal appears to be an impossible dream, while a place in the final should be a challenge, but who knows what she can do.
Kenya will be represented by Obiri, Kipyegon, who appears to have returned to form with her second place behind Obiri at their national trials, and Nancy Langat. The Beijing 2008 Olympic champion, Langat is back in good form this year with a second place behind Aregawi in Birmingham and was only a second behind Simpson in fifth when running her in her season’s best in Monaco.
Dibaba also looms as a potential medallist as does Britain’s Hannah England, second behind Simpson in Daegu. Natalia Rodriguez, the bronze medallist two years ago, is also back for Spain.
Jamal may not be in the form that took her to World titles in 2007 and 2009 but is also a very experienced campaigner.
Steeplechaser Yuliya Zarapova won the 1500m at the Russian championships but the host nation will be represented by Svetlana Podosynova, second in that race, Ekaterina Sharmina and Elena Korobkina. History suggests one of them will be a factor.
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Len Johnson for the IAAF