When you’ve finished 10th, eighth, third and second at four global outdoor championships, there’s only one place left to progress: to the top of the podium.
That will be Hellen Obiri’s goal as she lines up for the 5000m in London.
After finishing 10th over 1500m on her international championships debut at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Obiri placed eighth at the 2012 Olympics and took bronze at the 2013 World Championships. Following a break in 2015 to give birth to her daughter, Obiri soon returned to form in 2016 and took silver over 5000m at the Olympic Games.
One year on from that, the 27-year-old is in even better form. She has won all of her races at 3000m and 5000m this summer and holds world-leading marks in both events, clocking 8:23.14 to win the 3000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco and a Kenyan record of 14:18.37 to win the 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome, making her the fifth-fastest woman in history.
It’s not just a matter of fast times, though; it’s the way she has won races – with fast final kilometres that no one can match – that makes her the favourite for London.
That’s not to say it will be easy, though, as she will face the three women who filled the podium at the last World Championships: Ethiopian trio Almaz Ayana, Genzebe Dibaba and Senbere Teferi.
Ayana and Dibaba are two of the four women who stand above Obiri on the world all-time list, boasting PBs of 14:12.59 and 14:15.41 respectively. But Ayana will be heading into the World Championships having not raced at all this year, while Dibaba was soundly beaten by Obiri in Rome.
Teferi, the world silver medallist, could in fact be Ethiopia’s best bet of a medal in this event. And as Ayana has a wild card, Ethiopia will have a fourth entrant, two-time world U20 cross-country champion Letesenbet Gidey, who became the second-fastest U20 athlete in history when clocking a PB of 14:33.32 earlier this year.
Of the 38 women entered for the event, 18 of them have also been named in a second discipline. Ayana and Teferi, for example, have been named in the 10,000m, while Dibaba has been selected for the 1500m. But unlike many of her opponents, Obiri is focusing all of her energy on just the 5000m in London.
British hope Laura Muir will be attempting the same double as Dibaba and potentially would have negotiated three rounds of the 1500m before lining up for the 5000m heats on 10 August. After a superb winter campaign, which included two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships and a British indoor 5000m record of 14:49.12, Muir’s outdoor season was slightly hampered by a minor injury, but the 24-year-old returned to racing in July and has produced some solid results.
Muir is one of several strong European contenders. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands is expected to focus on the event in which she is the world indoor champion, the 1500m, but she is also entered for the 800m and 5000m. Given the form she is in, she will be a medal threat in whichever events she ultimately decides to contest.
Having set a PB of 14:36.82 this year, Turkey’s double European champion Yasemin Can will be aiming to finish higher than her sixth place from last year’s Olympics. Like Teferi, Can is also entered for the 10,000m.
Young German talent Konstanze Klosterhalfen is another athlete who is entered for the 1500m/5000m double. This year the 20-year-old has set PBs of 1:59.65 for 800m, 3:59.30 for 1500m and 14:51.38 for 5000m and, like Muir, isn’t afraid of going with a fast pace.
Muir’s teammate Eilish McColgan set a big 3000m PB of 8:31.39 in Monaco to show that she is rounding into form at just the right time. Meanwhile Hassan’s compatriot Susan Krumins has finished eighth in the 5000m at three consecutive global championships and heads to London off the back of a recent 14:53.35 PB.
Shelby Houlihan won the US 5000m title, beating North American record-holder Shannon Rowbury and national 10,000m champion Molly Huddle. All three can be expected to feature in what looks set to be a high-quality final.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF