Hyvin Jepkemoi in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview London, UK

Preview: women's 3000m steeplechase – IAAF World Championships London 2017

Two years ago Kenya’s 23-year-old Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi made her global breakthrough as she won the world 3000m steeplechase title in Beijing in 9:19.11, and she followed up with Olympic silver in Rio, clocking 9:07.12.

But such is the current strength in depth of an event that has witnessed extraordinary deeds since the last World Championships that the defending champion will do well to get on the podium in London.

Favourite for gold – probably – is Bahrain’s 20-year-old Ruth Jebet, who won the Olympic title last summer and, less than two weeks later, took more than six seconds off the world record of 8:58.81 set by Russia’s Gulnara Galkina in winning the 2008 Olympic title, clocking 8:52.78 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris.

Jebet’s form this season has been slightly less than stellar, however. She was third in the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season in Doha on 5 May, although she set her fastest time of the season so far, 9:01.99. Victory at the Shanghai IAAF Diamond League meeting a week later was followed by another third place in Eugene, where she followed home another extraordinary young talent in the form of her 18-year-old sometime training partner, Kenya’s Celliphine Chepteek Chespol, who won in 8:58.78, a world U20 record and the second fastest time ever run.

Just over a month later, Jebet returned to Paris with the intention of setting another world record, but a fall at the water jump with just over three laps remaining did for that ambition, although she stayed the course before limping away after finishing fourth in 9:10.95. Since then she has withdrawn from the Rabat IAAF Diamond League in order to concentrate on preparing for London.

A fully fit Jebet should win in London. But is she fully fit? Meanwhile her strangely similar training partner – also crop-haired and slight – looks capable of great things, and soon.

For all that, Jepkemoi – who took silver behind Jebet in Rio – has been hugely consistent this season, clocking the second fastest time of 2017, 9:00.12, in winning at Doha, and finishing second in Shanghai and Paris.

Nor can one discount the third Kenyan entrant, 26-year-old Beatrice Chepkoech, who followed Chespol home in Eugene in a personal best of 9:00.70, the third fastest time of the season, and who also placed second in Shanghai, clocking 9:01.57 before consolidating her lead after Jebet’s fall in Paris to win in 9:01.69. Another talented and hugely consistent runner…

There will also be a strong medal challenge from Emma Coburn, who took bronze in Rio in a US record of 9:07.63 and has run 9:07.96 this season in finishing fourth in Eugene.

Also in the mix will be Germany’s 2015 bronze medallist Gesa Krause, who has run a personal best of 9:15.70 this year, as well as two other highly experienced African performers – 29-year-old Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist who has run a personal best of 9:07.06 this year, and Tunisia’s 33-year-old Habiba Ghribi, the 2015 world silver medallist.

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF