Milcah Chemos’s quest for a long-awaited global gold medal was made easier before she even took to the start-line for this evening’s 3000m Steeplechase heats.
Russia’s World and Olympic champion Yuliya Zaripova withdrew two days ago after colliding with a barrier in one of her final training sessions ahead of the World Championships. With Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi, the World and Olympic silver medallist, also having to forego the World Championships due to knee surgery, Chemos knows that she will have no better chance to win the gold medal that has eluded her so far in her career.
The Kenyan, winner of her past three Diamond League races, made no mistakes in the first of two heats. Russia’s Lyudmila Lebedeva was the early leader before her team-mate Natalya Aristarkhova, the European Team Championships winner, took up the pace, leading through 1000m in 3:13.81.
But Aristarkhova, who was considered by some to be an underdog at these championships, soon began to fade as Chemos and compatriot Hyvin Jepkemoi moved into the lead., closely tracked by Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa, the Olympic bronze medallist.
Chemos and Jepkemoi were locked in a private battle down the home-straight with Chemos getting the verdict in 9:36.16, just 0.03 ahead of her fellow Kenyan. Assefa finished third in 9:36.66, comfortably grabbing one of the top-five automatic qualifying spots.
Ukraine’s Valentyna Zhudina and Morocco’s Salima Elouali Alami were the other automatic qualifiers from the first heat as Aristarkhova faded to 14th place, running 10:10.26.
The second heat was significantly quicker and was again dominated by African athletes.
There was little chance of another Kenyan one-two finish though, as Gladys Kipkemoi fell during the early stages.
Romania’s Ancuta Bobocel took out the early pace, passing through 1000m in 3:08.80. But she was soon caught by world leader Lidya Chepkurui and Ethiopian duo Etenesh Diro and Hiwot Ayalew, both of them Olympic finalists last year.
The finished five seconds ahead of the rest of the field, Diro getting the win in 9:24.02 from Chepkurui (9:24.19) and Ayalew (9:24.49). Germany’s Antje Moldner-Schmidt was the next past the finish line, while Silvia Danekova set a Bulgarian record of 9:35.66 to grab the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot.
Four of the five time qualifiers came from the second heat with Bobocel the fastest of those, a deserved reward for her early pace-making efforts.
Natalya Gorchakova, the 14th fastest of 15 qualifiers, will be the sole Russian representative in Tuesday’s final.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF