Almaz Ayana decimated the opposition – and the long-standing world record – at last year’s Olympic Games but the Ethiopian hasn’t demonstrated anything in the way of quantifiable form heading into the World Championships.
Ayana has been struggling with injury all season which has forced her to cancel a number of scheduled appearances on the IAAF Diamond League circuit. She was hoping to make her season’s debut over 3000m in Monaco in July but the Ethiopian team management preferred her to stay in the pre-championships training camp in Addis Ababa.
Despite her lack of recent form, the Ethiopian selectors have still named her for the 10,000m and she has a wildcard for the 5000m by virtue of the fact she is the reigning champion. Ayana might not be at her best, but her world record time of 29:17.43 gives her a cushion of nearly half a minute on the rest of the field.
The second-fastest entrant is Tirunesh Dibaba, who is looking to claim her sixth gold medal at the World Championships to go alongside her three Olympic titles on the track.
Like Ayana, Dibaba hasn’t demonstrated any form on the track this season – and she was widely expected to take part in the marathon at this championships – but her 2:17:56 clocking at the London Marathon this April shows she is amply capable of adding some more chapters to a storied career which dates all the way back to 2003 when she claimed the world 5000m title in Paris at the age of 17.
The Ethiopian team roster also includes world 5000m silver medallist Senbere Teferi, who made a 30:41.68 debut at the distance in Hengelo in June.
Kenya claimed this title two years ago when Vivian Cheruiyot won a tactical race in Beijing but with Cheruiyot effectively retired from the track, the Kenyans will be fielding something of a new look team. Their triumvirate includes world cross-country champion Irene Cheptai and the predecessor to that title Agnes Tirop, who won the Kenyan Trials.
The only returning member of the Kenyan trio from the Olympic Games is Alice Aprot, who made the 10,000m such a spectacle by covering the first half within world record pace. Aprot also won the African 10,000m title in gun-to-tape fashion last June but the 22-year-old was a well beaten third at the Kenyan Trials and might not be in the shape to employ her front-running tactics of last year quite so effectively.
US runners performed well en masse in 2015 with three finishers inside the top six and their trio of Emily Infeld, Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson are expected to feature.
Infeld memorably pipped Huddle for the bronze medal two years ago when the latter paid dearly for celebrating before the finish line arrived.
Yasemin Can from Turkey has dominated the European scene over the past 12 months and will be looking to improve on her seventh-place finish from the Rio Olympics while Bahrain’s Shitaye Eshete returns to track duty after contesting the marathon last summer.
Steven Mills for the IAAF