In the absence of world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba – who has chosen to focus on the 3000m – the path appears clear for one of her Ethiopian teammates to step into the breach and take gold. To do so, however, they will have to overcome the formidable challenge of a former compatriot: Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands.
Hassan was a runaway winner of the European indoor title in Prague last year, but the 23-year-old faces a much stiffer challenge if she is to emulate that success at global level. She has raced sparingly this indoor season, her sole outing at this distance coming at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix, where she defeated two of her biggest rivals here to win in 4:01.40.
Runner-up that day was Ethiopia’s Guduf Tsegay, who set a world U20 indoor record of 4:01.81, with her compatriot Axumawit Embaye third in 4:06.11. Both will challenge Hassan again in Portland, but perhaps it is their teammate, Dawit Seyaum, who poses the biggest threat.
Seyaum finished fourth in the 1500m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, and couldn’t have been more impressive in two outings over 1500m in Boston last month, running 4:01.86 and 4:00.28 to take prime place behind Dibaba on the 2016 world list. Though at 19 she is still relatively inexperienced, she proved she has the temperament to win a global championship back in 2014, when she took gold in the 1500m at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene.
The home challenge will be led by Brenda Martinez, who sprinted to victory at the US Championships on Saturday night in 4:08.37 ahead of Cory McGee (4:09.97).
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF