Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha and Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguidar decided to make statements by going through the gears over the final 400m of their heats of the men’s 3000m and post wins, showing off that they have come to Portland in good form.
Kejelcha stayed back in the pack, monitoring the moves at the front made early in the race by Great Britain’s Tom Farrell and then in the middle stages of the race by Kenya’s Augustine Choge and Djibouti’s Youssef Hiss Bachir.
Moving steadily through the bodies, just before the lap counter read two to go, Kejelcha hit the front and was never headed.
IAAF World Indoor Tour winner Choge gave chase but decided to relax over the final 80 metres and hand the Ethiopian the win, which he achieved in in 7:51.01 with Choge jogging across the line less than a second in arrears.
With six men still in contention for the four automatic qualifying slots for Sunday’s final at the bell, the revelation of the race was the competitive Hiss Bashir.
After crashing out in the heats of the last world indoor championships in Sopot two years ago, Hiss Bashir finishing third in 7:52.08 to secure his place in the final.
US champion Ryan Hill carefully assessed the numbers and got the last automatic qualifying spot when finishing fourth in 7:52.11, who looked a little less sharp than he did a week ago when winning his national title on the same track but he will have two days to recover and contemplate how to beat his African rivals.
The US will also be represented in the final by Paul Chelimo. The Kenyan-born runner, his heritage easily recognisable by his family name which has been well-represented at a global level in the past, is a member of the US Army and gained citizenship of his adopted country last year.
He looked quick ovcer the final lap but had been badly positioned at the bell and let Iguidar and Kenya’s Isiah Koech get away from him.
Iguidar, who hit the front with two laps to go, won in 7:52.13 with Koech – who made the pace for much of the first 10 laps – second in 7:52.64 and Chelimo third in 7:53.00.
Great Britain’s Lee Emmanuel got fourth with a spirited run over the final 100m to just edge out Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku on the line but the 2014 champion, who stumbled badly just before the final kilometre but managed to stay on his feet, still able to defend his title after progressing as one of the fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew looked out of slightly sorts but also made the final through the backdoor after finishing just behind Ndiku.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF