Hellen OBIRI

Athlete Profile

    Kenya Kenya
    13 DEC 1989
Hellen Obiri in the senior women's race at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 (Getty Images)

Current World Ranking Positions

Discipline Place Score
Women's 5000m 2 1380
Women's Overall Ranking 20 1380

Highest Ever World Ranking Positions

Discipline Place Duration
Women's 5000m 1 for 8 weeks
Women's Overall Ranking 20 for 5 weeks
Highest ever World Rankings position is considered from 1/1/2019


Discipline Performance Wind Place Date Records Results Score
400 Metres 59.0h Nairobi (KEN) 21 MAY 2010 866
800 Metres 2:00.54 London (GBR) 05 AUG 2011 1153
1500 Metres 3:57.05 Eugene, OR (USA) 31 MAY 2014 1229
One Mile 4:16.15 London (GBR) 22 JUL 2018 1221
3000 Metres 8:20.68 Doha (QAT) 09 MAY 2014 1241
5000 Metres 14:18.37 Roma (ITA) 08 JUN 2017 1245
10 Kilometres 29:59 * Madrid (ESP) 31 DEC 2018 1237
4x800 Metres Relay 8:07.58 Philadelphia, PA (USA) 27 APR 2013 1189
4x1500 Metres Relay 16:33.58 Nassau (BAH) 24 MAY 2014 WR, AR 1247


* Not legal.


Discipline Performance Wind Place Date Records Results Score
1000 Metres 2:46.00 Moskva (RUS) 05 FEB 2012 1056
1500 Metres 4:05.04 Toruń (POL) 15 FEB 2018 1187
3000 Metres 8:29.41 Birmingham (GBR) 18 FEB 2017 1235


* Not legal.


800 Metres

Performance Place Date
2013 2:02.47 Nairobi (KEN) 11 MAY 2013
2011 2:00.54 London (GBR) 05 AUG 2011


1500 Metres

Performance Place Date
2018 3:58.88 London (GBR) 22 JUL 2018
2017 4:00.44 London (GBR) 09 JUL 2017
2016 3:59.34 Shanghai (CHN) 14 MAY 2016
2014 3:57.05 Eugene, OR (USA) 31 MAY 2014
2013 3:58.58 Eugene, OR (USA) 01 JUN 2013
2012 3:59.68 Roma (ITA) 31 MAY 2012
2011 4:02.42 Bruxelles (BEL) 16 SEP 2011


One Mile

Performance Place Date
2018 4:16.15 London (GBR) 22 JUL 2018
2017 4:16.56 London (GBR) 09 JUL 2017


3000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2018 8:36.20 Ostrava (CZE) 08 SEP 2018
2017 8:23.14 Monaco (MON) 21 JUL 2017
2016 8:24.27 Monaco (MON) 15 JUL 2016
2014 8:20.68 Doha (QAT) 09 MAY 2014
2013 8:34.25 Stockholm (SWE) 22 AUG 2013


5000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2018 14:21.75 Rabat (MAR) 13 JUL 2018
2017 14:18.37 Roma (ITA) 08 JUN 2017
2016 14:25.78 Bruxelles (BEL) 09 SEP 2016


4x800 Metres Relay

Performance Place Date
2013 8:07.58 Philadelphia, PA (USA) 27 APR 2013


4x1500 Metres Relay

Performance Place Date
2014 16:33.58 Nassau (BAH) 24 MAY 2014


1000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2011/12 2:46.00 Moskva (RUS) 05 FEB 2012


1500 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017/18 4:05.04 Toruń (POL) 15 FEB 2018
2013/14 4:05.82 Birmingham (GBR) 15 FEB 2014
2011/12 4:06.25 Karlsruhe (GER) 12 FEB 2012


3000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017/18 8:38.81 Ostrava (CZE) 25 JAN 2018
2016/17 8:29.41 Birmingham (GBR) 18 FEB 2017
2013/14 8:29.99 Stockholm (SWE) 06 FEB 2014
2011/12 8:35.35 Birmingham (GBR) 18 FEB 2012

Honours - Olympic Games

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
2. 5000 Metres 14:29.77 Rio de Janeiro (BRA) 19 AUG 2016
8. 1500 Metres 4:16.57 London (GBR) 10 AUG 2012

Honours - World Championships

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 5000 Metres 14:34.86 London (GBR) 13 AUG 2017
3. 1500 Metres 4:03.86 Moskva (RUS) 15 AUG 2013

Honours - World Indoor Championships

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 3000 Metres 8:37.16 Istanbul (TUR) 11 MAR 2012
2. 3000 Metres 8:57.72 Sopot (POL) 09 MAR 2014
4. 3000 Metres 8:49.66 Birmingham (GBR) 01 MAR 2018

Honours - IAAF World Relays

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 4x1500 Metres Relay 16:33.58 Nassau (BAH) 24 MAY 2014

Honours - World Cross Country Championships

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. Senior Race 36:14 Aarhus (DEN) 30 MAR 2019

Honours - World (Continental) Cup

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
3. 3000 Metres 8:36.20 Ostrava (CZE) 08 SEP 2018
4. 1500 Metres 4:08.15 Marrakesh (MAR) 14 SEP 2014

Honours - African Championships

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 1500 Metres 4:09.53 Marrakesh (MAR) 12 AUG 2014

Honours - Diamond League

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 5000 Metres 14:38.39 Zürich (SUI) 30 AUG 2018
1. 5000 Metres 14:25.88 Bruxelles (BEL) 01 SEP 2017
1. 5000 Metres 14:21.75 Rabat (MAR) 13 JUL 2018
1. 3000 Metres 8:23.14 Monaco (MON) 21 JUL 2017
1. One Mile 4:16.56 London (GBR) 09 JUL 2017
1. 5000 Metres 14:18.37 Roma (ITA) 08 JUN 2017
1. 5000 Metres 14:22.47 Shanghai (CHN) 13 MAY 2017
1. 3000 Metres 8:24.27 Monaco (MON) 15 JUL 2016
1. 5000 Metres 14:32.02 Eugene, OR (USA) 27 MAY 2016
1. 1500 Metres 3:57.05 Eugene, OR (USA) 31 MAY 2014
1. 3000 Metres 8:20.68 Doha (QAT) 09 MAY 2014
1. 1500 Metres 3:58.58 Eugene, OR (USA) 01 JUN 2013

Honours - Commonwealth Games

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 5000 Metres 15:13.11 Gold Coast (AUS) 14 APR 2018
6. 1500 Metres 4:10.84 Glasgow (GBR) 29 JUL 2014

Honours - National Championships

Place Discipline Mark Wind Place Date
1. 5000 Metres 15:09.82 Nairobi (KEN) 23 JUN 2018
1. 1500 Metres 4:04.97 Nairobi (KEN) 07 JUN 2014
1. 1500 Metres 4:05.3h Nairobi (KEN) 22 JUN 2013
1. 1500 Metres 4:07.4h Nairobi (KEN) 15 JUN 2012
1. 1500 Metres 4:08.68 Nairobi (KEN) 16 JUL 2011
Results in:

Senior Race

Date Competition Cnt. Cat Race Pl. Result
30 MAR 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Aarhus DENDEN GW F1 1. 36:14

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Updated 8 September 2014


Hellen Onsando OBIRI, Kenya (1,500m)


Born 13 December 1989, Kisii

Coach: Sammy Rono

Manager: Ricky Simms/ Pace Sports Management,

Team: Kenya Defence Forces

Family: Fourth born in a family of six, four girls and two boys

Schools: Ikionga Primary School, Kisii/ Riruta Central Secondary, Nairobi


With a World record, an African record as well as a continental title to her name, it has been a great 2014 so far for Hellen Onsando Obiri as her steady ascendancy in distance running carries on.


The cheery 24 year-old made an explosive start to the year by setting a new African record in 3000metres and was a member of the record breaking 4x1500m Kenyan quartet at the IAAF World Relays before topping it off with victory at the African Athletics Championships.

Add a silver medal from the World Indoors, and Obiri has firmly established herself as the new Kenyan queen of 1500-3000 metres and fulfilled her undoubted potential.

When Obiri started shaping her athletics career while still a secondary school student, she had illustrious company to inspire her in making the baby steps at Nairobi’s Riruta Satellite Secondary as she set out to be an 800m athlete. Among her peers there were the former World Youth gold winner, Nelly Chebet Ngeiywo and the 2006 World Cross Country Junior Champion, Pauline Korikwiang.


Upon the completion of her days in Riruta in 2010, Obiri joined the training camp run by coach Sammy Rono and there, she met the man who radically altered her career path, the Sydney Olympics 1,500m gold medallist Noah Ngeny.

“He is the one who convinced me to change from 800m to 1,500m when we were in training,” said Obiri who with the aid of Ngeny, was conscripted into the Kenya Defence Forces.


Having never represented her nation as an age athlete, Obiri exploded in the 2011 campaign that began in victorious fashion at her Diamond League and international racing debut in Shanghai (15 May) where she topped the rarely run 2,000m race in 5:53.58. That was followed by an inconspicuous outing at the IAAF Permit Meeting in Dakar, Senegal where she returned ninth (2:09.12) on 28 May.

“When we returned, Noah asked me to try the 1,500m. At first, I was hesitant but my management arranged for races in Morocco and Russia and when I ran there, I started to become comfortable with the event,” she narrated.


Her first two races in the higher distance returned fourth (4:08.56/5 June) and third (4:10.90/3 July) finishes at the meet in Rabat and the Zhukovskiy race in Russia as the Kenyan Trials for the Daegu Worlds beckoned.


As the showdown for Daegu tickets commenced on 14 July, all eyes were focused on the Olympic champion, Nancy Jebet Langat, who was enduring a jaded season as well as former World Junior champions Viola Kibiwot and Irene Jelagat, who had held fort in the women’s Metric Mile event for the previous three years.


No one bothered even to establish whom Obiri was after she seamlessly won her semi (4:17.6), but at the final (16 July) Obiri attacked Jebet Langat, who had led as they approached the final curve, from behind and motored past her and to the line victorious in 4:08.68 - a new star was born.

“I told you she would do it! I believed she would do it!” the elated Ngeny said as he gave her a bear hug with the watching Simms beaming ear-to-ear.

“I am so happy about this race. It was my first race in the 1,500m trials and the competition was tough. I had to do endurance training to be fit and all the effort I put has been rewarded,” she said in the aftermath of one of the biggest shocks at the Trials.

“My objective is to go to Daegu and bring back the gold that has escaped this country at the event,” she added.


Her warm-up before South Korea consisted of a trip to Rio de Janeiro for her World Military Games debut, where she doubled in the 800m and 1,500m, winning bronze over two laps in 2:01.86 before stopping the clock at 4:19.32 for fourth in the Metric Mile two days later.


Obiri made her second Diamond League showing in London, where she was rewarded with a 2:00.54 career best in 800m despite coming home seventh.


In Korea, the spirited newcomer started nervously, but after the semis she was again surprisingly the last one standing as her more established compatriots fell by the wayside.

“It’s sad that my team mates have not made the final, but I will do my best to fight for them and for the country,” she said on the eve of the women’s 1,500m final at the Daegu Stadium.


But her crowning moment fell apart when she collided with USA runner Morgan Uceny as they came for the final curve in a tight race, ending the medal hopes of both runners, as Obiri fell headlong to the track. She still had a race to finish and she duly rose up to limp to the line in 4:20.23 to cross the line 11th.


The incident, that left the first-time finalist in tears, motivated her to work even harder to make the London Olympics team, as she disclosed at the bowels of the stadium where her hopes were shattered.

“She pushed me and this made me crash into the runner who was running alongside me in the middle, hurting my knee. The good thing is that I now have the motivation, after running with international athletes and I will seek Olympics qualifying time early so that I can prepare,” she stated.


Her season was notably wrapped up by winning the B Race at the Rieti meeting (4:04.10 and running a personal best 4:02.42 for seventh at the Diamond League final in Brussels


Obiri ushered in 2012 with a first sortie in Indoor running winning her first race, over 3000 metres, at the Aviva Grand Prix Meeting in Glasgow in 8:42.59. She followed it up with 4:06.25 over 1500m in her first indoor race at the distance, before improving her time over 3000m to 8:35.35.


Obiri had done enough to catch the eyes of the selectors who picked her for the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.

“This is another exciting challenge that I’m pleased to be given the chance to shine for my country after what happened in Korea. Running indoors with the sharp curves is not easy but I’m confident that I can fulfil my dreams,” she said as she prepared for the Istanbul World Indoors.


And in one of the shocks of the competition, Obiri stunned Defar to win gold.


The Ethiopian four-time women 3000m titleholder seemed set to make history by making it five as she powered away at the bell but Obiri the debutant pursued her, pulled level, before zooming away from the great Ethiopian to arrive home in 8:37.16.


The stunned Ethiopian came in second in 8:38.26, with compatriot Gelete Burka (8:40.18) taking bronze ahead of Sylvia Kibet (8:40.50).

“I’m so happy to win the gold medal, because it is my first win and also because I defeated Meseret Defar, who is four-time World champion indoors.”

“I knew that Defar has a strong kick in the last 20 metres, that’s why I had to make my move earlier, with 150m to go. In 2011 I didn’t perform well and I hope 2012 will be my year. I hope to do something in the 1500m at the Olympic Games,” Obiri, 22, told IAAF after her shocking triumph.


Strong performances in the Diamond League followed in her speciality, placing fourth (4:03.15) in Shanghai, second with a career best 3:59.68 in Rome and again fourth (4:04.42) in Oslo as she geared up for a tilt in qualifying for her first Olympics.


During the Kenyan Olympic Trials, Obiri ascended to the top of the domestic pile when she ran 4:06.10 for victory to punch her London 2012 ticket.

“I’m so happy to make this team, so, so happy. I believe I was in good shape and in the last 200m, I knew I had a strong kick. I’m out to do something there,” she gleefully stated re-emphasising, “I’m so happy, the Olympics are such a big game.”


At the Olympic Games, she placed fourth in heat one to progress to the semis where she squeaked through to the final after finishing fifth in the second semi-final. The only Kenyan in the final, Obiri could only manage 12th place finish in 4:16.57.


Obiri began 2013 by running a PB in 5000 (15:49.7) in Nakuru in April and the following month took gold at 1500m and bronze at 800m at the Armed Forces Championships.

In June she claimed a huge victory in Eugene, beating compatriot Faith Kipyegon and Nancy Langat on the way to setting a seasonal best in 1500 metres of 3:58.58.


Enjoying pretty good form, she won the National Championships on 20 June  and in July came out tops at the World Championships Trials in Nairobi (4:06.91) to book her ticket to Moscow.


In Russia, she breezed through to the final where she clinched bronze in 4:03.86 on 15. A week later, Obiri made her debut over 3000m (8:34.25) in Stockholm.

The Laikipia Airbase (LAB) based Corporal in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) started 2014 in fine form with indoor wins in 1500 metres in Glasgow and Düsseldorf in January before setting new personal bests in February of 8:29.99 in 3000mand 4:05.82 in 1500m.


Her superb indoor form saw her selected to represent Kenya at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland.

Hoping to defend her title from two years earlier, Obiri made it to the final where she came face to face with in form Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba in the final. Try as she might, the Kenyan could only come in second in 8:57.72.


Obiri made a spectacular start to the outdoor season in Doha with a blistering race to set a new African record in 3000m on 9 May.


She had to do it the hard way though as the KDF wanted her to stay at home and compete for LAB at the Forces Championships. But Obiri was determined to run and sneaked out to Doha to compete in the opening leg of the IAAF Diamond League.


Running against Dibaba, Obiri gained a measure of revenge for losing the World Indoor title by winning in 8:20.68, the fastest mark in over ten years, to become the fifth fastest woman of all time. For good measure she was back in the country in time for the Forces showdown in which she retained her title (4:10.0hA) on 15 May.


Selected for the Kenya team for the inaugural World Relays Championships in The Bahamas later that month, Obiri headed to Nassau hopeful of helping the East African nation break the 4x1500m World record.

Together with Mary Cherono, Faith Chepng’etich and Irene Jelagat, the Kenyan quartet obliterated the rest of the field with Obiri running the anchor leg to set a new world best time of 16 minutes, 33.58 seconds on 24 May.

She continued with her good form in Eugene a week later, where she set a new personal best in 1500 metres. Again faced with a quality field, she bid her time before kicking for home with some 200  metres to go to clock 3:57.05.


She then swept through the Kenyan National Championships in the first week of June to make the Commonwealth Games team.


The build up to the Club Games was underwhelming, with a third place finish in Paris Saint-Denis and eighth in Glasgow. At the Games, she easily won her heat in a championship record of 4:04.43. The final however did not go according to plan as she faded on the homestretch finishing sixth in a race won by Chepngetich.


One of the hallmarks of a champion is the ability to bounce back and Obiri roared back in Marrakech at the African Championships, where she claimed gold ahead of Dawit Seyaum in 4:09.53.

The victory saw her book a place in the Continental Cup, where she hopes to wrap up the year with yet another victory.


Personal Bests

800m: 2:00:54 (2011)

1,500m: 3:57.05, 4:05.82i (2014)

3,000m: 8:20.68 AR, 8:29.99i (2014)

4 x 1500m: 16:33.58 WR


Yearly Progression

800m: 2011- 2:00.54, 2013- 2:01.47; 2014- 2:00. 6hA

1,500m: 2011- 4:02.42; 2012- 3:59.68; 2013-3:58.58; 2014- 3:57.05

3000m: 2012- 8:34.25; 2014-8:20.68 AR; 2014- -


Career Highlights

2011    1st        National Championships (1500)

2011    3rd        World Military Games (800m)

2011    4th        World Military Games (1,500m)

2011    10th      World Championships (1,500m)

2012    1st        World Indoor Championships (3000m)

2012    1st        National Championships (1500)

2012    1st        Olympic Trials (1500)

2012    12th      Olympic Games, London (1500m)

2013    1st        National Championships (1500)

2013    1st        National Championships (1500)

2013    3rd        World Athletics Championships (1500m)

2014    2nd       World Indoor Championships (3000m)

2014    1st        IAAF World Relays (4x1500m)

2014    1st        National Championships (1500m)

2014    6th        Commonwealth Games (1500m)

2014    1st        African Athletics Championships (1500m)


Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2012-2014