Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia competes in the Women's 3000m Steeplechase Round 1 Heats on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright

London 2012 - Event Report - Women's 3000m Steeplechase

None of the main contenders for the gold medal really showed their hands, all running conservatively to qualify for the final on Sunday, with the exception of 34-year-old defending champion Gulnara Galkina.

Galkina for the first two kilometres in the opening heat looked as if she had come to London fully prepared to retain her title, dictating the pace after moving to the front before the first kilometre split (passed in 3:08.77) and the second where a pack of eight went through in 6:22.09.

But when Ethiopia's Etenesh Diro less than 200 metres later went to the front, the 34-year-old Russian who has had a quiet campaign in the build-up to the Games, gradually began to slip off the pace and over the final circuit looked a spent force, finishing fifth and only progressing as a fastest loser in 9:28.76.

While Diro was the instigator who initially forced the pace it was German Gesa Felicitas Krause over the final circuit who came up trumps winning ahead of her by 0.60sec in a personal best 9:24.91.

"It was the perfect race," said the 19-year-old who was last year's European junior champion and a surprise ninth at the Daegu World Championships. "I loved the crowd, it felt amazing with 80,000 people watching me. I pushed myself all the time, it was awesome crossing the finish line."

Milcah Chemos, Kenya's world season leader, determined to atone for her disappointing third position at the 2011 Worlds, did just enough to make the final qualifing in third place clocking 9:27.09. "I'm feeling good," said a highly confident Chemos who has clocked a personal best 9:07.14 this summer. "My aim was to qualify - I wanted to conserve my energy for the final."

Behind these first three Polina Jelizarova, a former European junior gold medallist, lowered her Latvian record from 9:28.27 to 9:27.21.

The second heat saw the field content to follow two-time USA champion Emma Coburn who towed them through the kilometre markers in 3:09.56 and 6:21.03 before Habiba Ghribi, the first Tunisian woman ever to reach an Olympic final when finishing 13th in Beijing four years ago, took point.

Ghribi, who went on to clinch the silver medal behind Russia's Yuliya Zaripova in Daegu 12 months ago, after shadowing Coburn hit the front with 700m remaining a move which took a pack of five chasing the four automatic places in the final clear of the field.

Before the final water jump Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa, this year's world number 2, went to the front to claim victory in 9:25.42, with Ghribi running a season's best of 9:27.42. Coburn followed next behind (9:27.51) and then came former World champion Marta Dominguez of Spain who clocked 9:27.71.

Then followed Portugal's Clarisse Cruz who had picked herself up after falling with just over five laps remaining, who went through as a fastest qualifier in a personal best 9:30.06.

The final heat featured last year's World champion Zaripova who like her like arch rival Chemos conserved energy for what will be a much quicker final, and was happy to achieve qualification by finishing second in a time of 9:25.68.

Ethiopia's Hiwot Ayalew, third on the world lists this year, hit the front at the bell and with a bunch of four chasing her finished first in 9:24.01 the fastest time of the day. Followed the winner and Zaripova was Kenya's Mercy Njoroge who clocked 9:25.99, and the early German leader Antje Moldner-Schmidt and a season's best 9:26.57.

David Martin for IAAF