Hellen Onsando Obiri

Athlete Profile

    Kenya Kenya
    13 DEC 1989
Hellen Obiri wins the 3000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (Deca Text & Bild)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
800 Metres 2:00.54 London (Crystal Palace) 05 AUG 2011
1500 Metres 3:57.05 Eugene (Hayward Field), OR 31 MAY 2014
One Mile 4:16.56 London (Olympic Stadium) 09 JUL 2017
3000 Metres 8:20.68 Doha (Hamad Bin Suhaim) 09 MAY 2014
5000 Metres 14:18.37 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 08 JUN 2017

Personal Best - Indoor

Performance Wind Place Date
1500 Metres 4:05.82 Birmingham (NIA), GBR 15 FEB 2014
3000 Metres 8:29.41 Birmingham (BarclayCard), GBR 18 FEB 2017

Progression - Outdoor

800 Metres

Performance Place Date
2013 2:01.47 Nairobi 11 MAY
2011 2:00.54 London (Crystal Palace) 05 AUG

1500 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017 4:00.44 London (Olympic Stadium) 09 JUL
2016 3:59.34 Shanghai (SS) 14 MAY
2014 3:57.05 Eugene (Hayward Field), OR 31 MAY
2013 3:58.58 Eugene (Hayward Field), OR 01 JUN
2012 3:59.68 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 31 MAY
2011 4:02.42 Bruxelles (Boudewijnstadion) 16 SEP

One Mile

Performance Place Date
2017 4:16.56 London (Olympic Stadium) 09 JUL

3000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017 8:23.14 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 21 JUL
2016 8:24.27 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 15 JUL
2014 8:20.68 Doha (Hamad Bin Suhaim) 09 MAY
2013 8:34.25 Stockholm (Olympiastadion) 22 AUG

5000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017 14:18.37 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 08 JUN
2016 14:25.78 Bruxelles (Boudewijnstadion) 09 SEP

Progression - Indoor

1500 Metres

Performance Place Date
2014 4:05.82 Birmingham (NIA), GBR 15 FEB
2012 4:06.25 Karlsruhe 12 FEB

3000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017 8:29.41 Birmingham (BarclayCard), GBR 18 FEB
2014 8:29.99 Stockholm (Globe Arena) 06 FEB
2012 8:35.35 Birmingham (NIA), GBR 18 FEB

Honours - 1500 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014 4 4:08.15 Marrakech (Le Grande Stade) 14 SEP 2014
14th IAAF World Championships 3 4:03.86 Moskva (Luzhniki) 15 AUG 2013
The XXX Olympic Games 10 4:16.57 London (Olympic Stadium) 10 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 10 4:20.23 Daegu (DS) 01 SEP 2011

Honours - 3000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Indoor Championships 2014 2 8:57.72 Sopot (Ergo Arena) 09 MAR 2014
IAAF World Indoor Championships 2012 1 8:37.16 Istanbul (Ataköy Arena) 11 MAR 2012

Honours - 5000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Championships London 2017 1 14:34.86 London (Olympic Stadium) 13 AUG 2017
The XXXI Olympic Games 2 14:29.77 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 19 AUG 2016

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


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