The five fastest women in the world this year negotiated their way safely through the heats of the women’s 1500m on the second day of competition in Luzhniki Stadium.
The quintet were made up of the four women to break four minutes for the distance this season – world leader Abeba Aregawi of Sweden, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba and Hellen Obiri of Kenya – plus USA’s defending champion Jenny Simpson, who won so impressively at the Monaco IAAF Diamond League meeting last month.
The first heat had history and the future as book-ends. Kenya’s Nancy Langat epitomised the former, with her Beijing 2008 Olympic title and now back in her best form for some years. US 17-year-old Mary Cain, a runner of enormous potential, is the emerging star.
Presently, though, the event is dominated by Aregawi, fastest in the world this season with 3:56.60 and favourite for the title here.
With the first six in each of the three heats and the next six fastest going to Tuesday’s semi-finals, Poland’s Renata Plis ensured a solid pace, leading through the first two laps in 1:06.82 and 2:14.77.
It was Aregawi in the lead at 1200m (3:20.83) and the Swedish runner held that all the way to the line to win in 4:07.66, followed by Morocco’s Siham Hilali, Russia’s Svetlana Podosenova, Langat and Plis.
Cain, ahead of only two runners with 700 metres to go, came home impressively to take the sixth, and last, automatic qualifying spot in 4:08.21. Among those to miss out was Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka, who finished 10th.
Russia’s Ekaterina Sharmina controlled the second heat, leading through the first 800m in 2:16.05 and at the bell in 3:05.02 with defending champion Simpson and Australia’s Zoe Buckman prominent among the bunch close behind.
Buckman remained on the inside and eventually found a break to push clear as the field entered the final straight to win the heat in 4:06.99. Simpson and Sharmina followed her home a few metres ahead of Morocco’s Rababe Arafi, Kenyan record-holder Kipyegon, and Bahrain’s Mimi Belete. Only the first six got through from this heat.
Germany’s Diane Sujew took the initiative in the final heat, leading through the first two laps in 1:05.02, 2:13.93 and 3:21.11 in a brave attempt to front-run her way into the semis. She succeeded in getting three non-automatic qualifiers through from the heat, but unfortunately Sujew was not one of them. She finished tenth, missing out on advancing by just one place.
Dibaba led the charge past the German, tracked closely by Obiri. These two finished first and second in 4:06.78 and 4:06.98.
Hannah England, the silver medallist in Daegu two years ago, ensured British representation in the semi-finals with a fast-closing 4:08.05 for third place. She was followed by Russia’s Elena Korobkina and Daegu bronze medallist Natalia Rodriguez of Spain.
Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes took the sixth automatic spot with the next three finishers – Slovenia’s Sonja Roman, Sarah Brown of the USA and Btissam Lakhouad of Morocco – all advancing on times. Hopefully they all thanked Sujew, who had done the work for them.
Len Johnson for the IAAF