BRUSSELS, Belgium, Sep 8 – Ethiopian Almaz Ayana will aim to round off a sensational year when she ambitiously targets the world record in the women’s 5000m at the season-ending Diamond League meet in Brussels on Friday.
Ayana sliced nearly 14 seconds off the previous world 10,000m best — set by Wang Junxia in 1993 during the era of notorious Chinese coach Ma Junren — when she won Olympic gold in 29min 17.45sec at last month’s Rio Games.
The reigning 5000m world champion however had to be happy with bronze in that event as Vivian Cheruiyot foiled her attempt for the double and Hellen Obiri taking silver in a Kenyan one-two.
But Ayana, with the help of pacemakers and Obiri plus a raft of Kenyans breathing down her neck, will aim to break compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba’s best of 14:11.15 set in Oslo in 2008.
She faces a tough challenge, having previously managed a personal best of 14:12.59, 1.44sec off Dibaba’s pace.
There is also expected to be a tilt at a world record in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto has set his sights on the 7:53.63 mark set in 2004 in Brussels by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen, formerly known as Stephen Cherono.
Kipruto will come into the race as favourite, having added the Olympic title to five wins on the Diamond League circuit this season.
But he is yet to dip below the 8min barrier, his best time to date is 8:00.12, coming in Birmingham in June.
Ayana and Kipruto aside, there will be 39 other Olympic medal winners set to take part in Brussels’ King Baudouin Stadium.
On the track, Jamaica’s newly minted double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson will face Dafne Schippers in the 100m.
The Dutchwoman could only finish fifth in the blue riband event in Rio, rebounding to claim 200m silver behind Thompson, who remains the sprinter to beat after victories in the Lausanne 100m and Zurich 200m.
South African Caster Semenya, Olympic 800m gold medallist, has an outing over 400m with Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson leading a threatening pack of Rio finalists.
The meet gets under way with the women’s shot put, which will be held in Brussels’ central square (Grand Place) on Thursday.
New Zealand’s Valerie Adams admitted she was “out for revenge” after being defeated by American rival Michelle Carter in Rio.
Two-time Olympic champion Adams said she had competed outside the main stadium before, but the Grand Place was still a thrilling prospect.
“I’ve done it several times already: in Zurich, Stockholm, some German cities, but the Grand Place of Brussels is quite exceptional and something very special to look forward to,” she said.
“In the stadium the shot put is never really in the spotlight compared to sprinting and running. This is different. On a city square the contact with the crowd is better and that is an extra motivation.
“It’s also spectacular for the audience to watch us from close up.”