Women’s 5,000m: Battle for Kenya’s second gold medallist in 5km starts tonight

Kenya's Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (R) and Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri (L) celebrate after finishing respectively first and second of the Women's 5000m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO

Obiri ready to hoist Kenyan flag

She leads Chelimo and Chepkirui against strong Ethiopian challenge.

Olympic 5,000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri will lead Kenya’s campaign for medals when she lines up for the qualifying round of IAAF World Athletics Championships at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London tonight.

She will join forces with Africa champion Sheila Chepkirui and Margaret Chelimo against a strong opposition that features Olympic bronze medallist Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia.

Obiri finished 10th, eighth, third and second at four global outdoor championships and there’s only one place left to progress: to the top of the podium. This will be Obiri’s aim as she lines up for the 5,000m heats.

She longs to be the second Kenyan to win world 5,000m gold medal after Vivian Cheruiyot’s double in Berlin (2009) and Daegu (2011).

After finishing 10th over 1,500m on her international championships debut at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Obiri finished 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 last year and took silver over 5,000m at the Olympic Games.

One year on, the 27-year-old is in a better form. She has won all her races in 3,000m and 5,000m this summer and holds world-leading marks in both events, clocking 8:23.14 to win the 3,000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco and a Kenyan record of 14:18.37 to win the 5,000m 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 for a medal in this event. And as Ayana has a wild card, Ethiopia will have a fourth entrant, Letesenbet Gidey, the second-fastest U20 athlete in history.

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