In an event as unpredictable as the 3000m steeplechase, it may be unwise to assume anything ahead of time, but we can say this ahead of Friday evening’s final: Celliphine Chepteek Chespol looks almost unbeatable.
The Kenyan 19-year-old brings the ability of a world-beating senior to the ranks of U20 competition and, with a personal best of 8:58.78, the second fastest in history, she should take gold with ease if producing anything near her best.
Chespol first made her mark internationally by taking gold at the IAAF World U18 Championships in Cali three years ago and since then her star has only ascended, winning the world U20 title two years ago in Bydgoszcz before clocking her first sub-nine-minute time last year in Eugene.
In recent days she proved she is close to her brilliant best by finishing second at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in 9:01.82, a time that will leave her rivals thinking gold may be out of the equation.
Bahrain’s Winfred Mutile Yavi will be hoping for an upset, however. She finished eighth at the IAAF World Championships in London last year – just two places behind Chespol – and in Paris recently she finished a fine fifth in an Asian U20 record of 9:12.74.
Uganda used to once dominate the women’s steeplechase through Dorcus Inzikuru, who took the inaugural world title in the event in Helsinki in 2005, and they may have unearthed a new star in Peruth Chemutai. The 18-year-old had a breakthrough performance in Ostrava last month where she clocked a big PB of 9:16.89, enough to give Yavi and Chespol plenty to think about ahead of their clash.
Kenya’s Mercy Chepkurui is the only other U20 athlete below 9:30 this year, and will be hoping to continue her nation’s tradition by getting among the medals. The non-African challenge will be led by USA’s Kristlin Gear, who has run 9:52.71 this season, while Canada’s Grace Fetherstonhaugh, Germany’s Lisa Vogelgesang and Netherlands’ Jasmijn Bakker have all threatened the 10-minute barrier this season so should make the final.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF