NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 16 – Kenya’s trio of world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, Mercy Cherono and Hellen Obiri advanced to the Rio Olympics final of the women’s 5000m from the two qualifying heats.
Also advancing was Ethiopia’s phenomenal Almaz Ayana, who is fresh from smashing the women’s 10,000m ahead of the mouth-watering final slated for early Saturday morning at 3:40am Kenyan time.
With five runners from each heat plus the next five fastest times advancing, competition for the leading spots was fierce especially in the first heat where they ran as a pack for most part of the race.
Once five runners had separated, however, there was no point in scrambling for places, and often the leaders would cross the finish line at a saunter.
In relatively hot conditions, Obiri took the first heat in 15:19.38 ahead of Yasemin Can of Turkey who crossed the line second in 15:19.50 while reigning Commonwealth Games title holder Cherono qualified third in 15:19.56.
In the last heat, Ayana sent a warning ahead of the final after putting daylight between herself and Cheruiyot as she sped off at the halfway mark to easily qualify in 15:04.35 and set the fasted time of the two heats.
Ayana showed her intentions of making history as a double distance champion, aiming for another record, this time in 5,000m (14:11.15) which is held by compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba.
Cheruiyot, who is yet to taste an Olympics title after settling for silver behind Ayana in the women’s 10,000m, clocked 15:17.74 to qualify third behind Ethiopian Senbere Teferi who crossed the line second in 15:17.43.
Cheruiyot, who bagged silver at the London 2012 games in the same event, will be out to stop Ayana and become the first Kenyan woman to win gold in the 5,000m at the Olympic Games.
With eight laps to go, Great Britain’s Stefanie Twell took over at the front from Japanese Ayuko Suzuki but just before the 2000m mark – passed 6:13.32 – the 10,000m winner Almaz Ayana moved up through the field and took off.
Ayana kept on ticking off the laps at a tempo nobody else could match, or wanted to, passing 3000m and then 4000m in 9:06.62 and 12:06.86 before crossing the line in 15:04.35, finishing in a very relaxed fashion more than 13 seconds clear of the best of the rest as the women behind her battled for the other four automatic qualifying spaces.
They went, in order, to: Ayana’s compatriot and Beijing silver medallist Teferi, Cheruiyot, Norway’s Karoline Bjorkeli Grovdal and Great Britain’s Elish McColgan.
The only real surprise from the second heat was that the former world junior 1500m champion Twell wasn’t among the battle for the top five and the Briton finished eighth in 15:25.90, which was not quick enough to go through as a non-automatic qualifier.