Obiri sets up Ayana 5K clash as Nyairera, Yego advance
Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri led compatriots Margaret Chelimo and Sheila Chepkirui to advancing for the IAAF World Championships 5000m final, winning the first heat ahead of defending champion Almaz Ayana on Thursday.
Obiri and Ayana – hot favourites to clinch gold on Sunday – clocked leading times of 14:56.7 and 14:57.06 with Africa champion Chepkirui running a personal best of 14:57.58 that put her sixth and through as one of five fastest losers.
African Games champion ensured it will be a three-pronged Kenyan assault on the 5K title when she timed 15:00.39 to clinch the last automatic qualifying spot in the other semi.
Another Kenyan Margaret Wambui, 800m bronze medallist at both the world indoors and Olympics last year, won her heat to advance semis. Her teammate teammate Eunice Sum, world champion in Moscow in 2013 and bronze medallist in Beijing two years later, was forced to a late withdrawal due to illness.
Olympic champion, Caster Semenya, also sailed through after winning her first round heat. The South African sensation, a bronze medallist in the 1500m in London who is attempting an audacious double, clocked 2min 01.33sec.
In javelin, Olympic silver medalist Julius Yego advanced to the final set for Saturday when he threw 83.57 meters in his first attempt to surpass the qualifying mark of 83m.
German Johannes Vetter threw a mammoth 91.20 – also with his first attempt – to go through. His compatriot and Olympic champion Thomas Roehler is set for the second qualifying session with the duo poised derail Yego’s title defense bid.
On the track, Obiri and Ayana offered a glimpse of what to expect on Sunday, stretching the field and running shoulder to shoulder at 4000m before the Kenyan eased off to victory.
Obiri, 27, will be bidding win her first major 5K crown and will be challenged by her Ethiopian counterpart who is seeking a long-distance double at the English capital after obliterating the 10,000m field last weekend.
Senbere Teferi, Ayana’s compatriot and 2015 world silver medalist, was also among the automatic qualifiers from heat one, along with Susan Krumins of the Netherlands and Shannon Rowbury of the United States.
American Molly Huddle led the second heat for more than 11 laps, but she was overtaken on the last bend by a congested pack including compatriot Shelby Houlihan, Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, Britain’s Eilish McColgan and Margaret Kipkemboi of Kenya.
Huddle still qualified via the fastest non-automatic places, along with Norway’s Karoline Grovdal and Kalkidan Gezahegne of Bahrain.
Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, the former world 1,500 meters champion, was a no-show.
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