Kenyan Hellen Onsando Obiri produced an astonishing last lap to break Ethiopian Almaz Ayana’s resistance, and claim her first ever major world outdoor title in the women 5000m at the IAAF World Championships in London on Sunday.
Ayana, winner of the 10,000m at the London 2017 world championships, and Obiri broke clear of the women’s pack after one third of the race with the East African duo opening up a huge gap as they set a blistering pace.
Ayana led with Obiri on her tail into the final lap until the Kenyan, silver medalist in Rio de Janeiro last year, suddenly burst past with 300m left and stormed home to win in 14:34.86, with Almaz taking silver in 14:40.35.
Sifan Hassan of The Netherlands prevented an East African clean sweep by taking the bronze in 14:42.73.
After the race, Obiri said: “I was telling myself to go. I could see Ayana was not going so I thought, why not? So I said, go. I am mentally strong so I knew I was capable.
“When I crossed the line I was extremely happy, and just wanted to celebrate. All my emotion came out. I wanted the 5000m gold a lot.”
Rio repeat for Ayana
The ghosts of the women 5000m final at last summer’s Rio Olympics came back to haunt Ayana who was aiming for the double after another dominating performance in the 10,000m.
At the Rio 2016 Olympics Vivian Cheruiyot, who retired from the track last year, was the Kenyan who denied the 25-lap world record holder the glory as Obiri forced her to accept the third medal when the pair tailed Almaz before speeding past the Ethiopian for the Kenyan 1-2.
When Ayana, who set a world 10,000m record in Rio, went for broke on the opening night of London 2017 in the longer distance, no one could match her. Even the great compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, now turning her sights to the roads, knew better than to try.
With nine of the 12 and half laps to go on Sunday, Ayana was already creating space between herself and the rest of the field but Obiri responded and moved at her shoulder. With eight to go, the two had opened a lead of around 10m.
With six remaining Ayana and Obiri extended their lead to 40m with gold and silver seemingly settled and the question was who would take the first and second medal.
Meanwhile, the battle for the bronze was on behind them with only a couple of seconds separating third to 11th placed runners.
With 800m to go, Obiri was still on the shoulder of Ayana and they ran as if they were a single unit around the final bend for the penultimate bend.
“It was a difficult race. I am better at leading it to get the win rather than challenging in a final sprint. It was difficult to push Hellen (Obiri) through to the finish line,” said Almaz Ayana after the race.
“Compared to Rio this is a bigger achievement. I’ve had many injuries this year so I am very happy with two medals,” she said.
“I have been injured for the whole season and haven’t been able to get over it. The pain came back after the 10,000m. I did my best today but Hellen was too good at finishing. It was all I could today.”
“But I won’t give up going for 5000m and 10,000m. I won gold and bronze in Rio and now gold and silver, so this is a step up,” she noted.
- Hellen Onsando OBIRI (KEN) 14:34.86
- Almaz AYANA (ETH) 14:40.35 SB
- Sifan HASSAN (NED) 14:42.73
- Senbere TEFERI (ETH) 14:47.45
- Margaret Chelimo KIPKEMBOI (KEN) 14:48.74
- Laura MUIR (GBR) 14:52.07
- Sheila Chepkirui KIPROTICH (KEN) 14:54.05 PB
- Susan KRUMINS (NED) 14:58.33
- Shannon ROWBURY (USA) 14:59.92
- Eilish MCCOLGAN (GBR) 15:00.43
(Additional reports from IAAF)