It will be Obiri versus Semenya at Diamond League Prefontaine Classic

By Dennis Okeyo and IAAF: Wednesday, May 22nd 2019 at 03:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Hellen Obiri after winning 3,000m race in the Doha Diamond League on May 3. [Reuters]

World and cross country champion Hellen Obiri will line up against the two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya in 3,000 meters at the Diamond League Prefontaine Classic on June 30.

The South African has insisted she will not take medication to comply with the new International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules governing testosterone levels in women athletes that went into effect this month.

The new rules require women with higher than normal male hormone levels -- so-called "hyperandrogenic" athletes -- to artificially lower the amount of testosterone in their bodies if they are to compete in races over distances of 400m to the mile.

As the debate rumbles on, the Prefontaine 3,000m will be Semenya's first race since the rules went into effect.

Prefontaine Classic meet director Tom Jordan said Semenya's agent reached out to meet officials asking if she could start in the 3,000.

"We were happy to oblige," Jordan told AFP, adding that he saw "no downside whatsoever" despite the controversy over the new rules

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Red hot Obiri, who won the 5000m IAAF Diamond League title in 2018, is undefeated this year and won the 3000m at the opening leg of the IAAF Diamond League in Doha earlier this month in a world-leading 8:25.60. Last Sunday she also won the Great Manchester 10km road race.

The five-time world indoor champion Genzebe Dibaba has won all three of her past Pre Classic appearances and her 14:19.76 victory in 2015 is the fastest 5000m ever run in the US.

Sifan Hassan won the 1500m Diamond League trophy in 2015 and followed it with world indoor gold over the same distance in 2016. The Dutch athlete is one of the most versatile runners in history, boasting an 800m PB of 1:56.81 and a half marathon PB of 1:05:15. She also holds the European 5000m record and the world 5km record.

Olympic 10,000m champion and world record-holder Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia will be competing in the US for the first time. The Ethiopian won the 2015 world 5000m title, 2016 5000m Diamond Trophy and 2017 world 10,000m title, but missed all of last year with a knee injury.

Obiri, Dibaba, Ayana and Hassan are among the seven fastest women of all time at 5000m, but this will be the first time they have all raced one another at any distance.

The field also includes Kenyans versatile world U20 cross-country champion Beatrice Chebet,  Caroline Chepkoech, 2017 world cross-country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait.   

Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey and Senbere Teferi, ranked eighth and ninth respectively on the world 5000m all-time list, are also in the field. Gidey is a two-time world U20 cross-country champion, while Teferi earned world silver medals at 5000m and cross country in 2015. The field also includes two-time Ethiopian champion Fantu Worku.

Selected women’s 3000m lineup

Hellen Obiri        Kenya

Beatrice Chebet          Kenya

Caroline Chapkoech   Kenya

Lilian Kasai                 Kenya

Caster Semenya         South Africa

Genzebe Dibaba         Ethiopia

Almaz Ayana              Ethiopia

Fantu Worku               Ethiopia

Sifan Hassan               Netherlands

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