BEIJING, August 24 – All Kenyans led by Diamond League leader, Virginia Nyambura made it safely to Wednesday’s final in the women’s 3000m steeplechase Beijing Worlds after qualifying in their heats on Monday.
The three heats were incredibly close to each other, with the winning times within two seconds of each other, possibly due to there being just three automatic qualifiers from each heat, followed by the six fastest times.
It came as no surprise to see the top athletes on this year’s world list recording the fastest times in the heats.
Tunisia’s world leader Habiba Ghribi, the Olympic silver medallist, won her heat in 9:24.38 for the best mark in the heat.
The second fastest was German Gesa Felicitas Krause, finalist at the past two editions of the World Championships, in 9:24.92 and Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew was third fastest in 9:25.55.
In the first heat, Nyambura crossed the line second in 9:22.74 to qualify second behind winner Ayalew who clocked 9:25.55 in the race where Australian Madeleine Heiner kept a good pace from the start, passing 1000m in 3:10.55 and 2000m in 6:22.74.
There was no reward at the finish line for the 27-year-old, though, as she ended up as the fastest athlete not to make the final, finishing fourth in 9:30.79.
USA’s Stephanie Garcia took the third automatic qualifying spot in 9:29.34.
The second heat saw Turkish runner Ozlem Kaya take the early lead, reaching the 1000m point in a slightly faster 3:08.29 but after that point the pre-event favourite, Ghribi, took over and easily controlled the race until the finish.
Ghribi clocked 6:19.84 for 2000m, three seconds faster than in the first heat, and won in 9:24.38 before Krause’s 9:24.92.
There was a surprise in the third place with 18-year-old Rosefline Chepngetich cutting almost 10 seconds off her personal best with 9:25.91 as the 2013 world youth champion and world junior silver medallist ran her previous best of 9:35.75 at altitude in Nairobi at the Kenyan Trials in the beginning of August.
In fourth, Lalita Babar set an Indian record of 9:27.86, fifth was Moroccan Salima Elouali Alami in 9:28.18, sixth USA’s Colleen Quigley in 9:29.09 and seventh early leader Kaya in 9:30.23, all qualifying to the final with their times.
Hyvin Jepkemoi, the current world No.2 and the sixth-place finisher at the 2013 World Championships, won this heat three in 9:26.19, closely followed by Ethiopia’s world and Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Assefa in 9:26.47 with Coburn following for the third automatic place to the final in 9:27.29.
Turkey’s Tugba Guvenc clocked the fastest opening 1000m split of 3:05.66 in the heat, but then the second kilometre was the slowest of all heats, taking 3:15.15, with USA’s Emma Coburn passing the 2000m mark in 6:20.81.
Two more athletes qualified from this heat by time. Fadwa Sidi Madane of Morocco set a personal best of 9:27.87 for the fourth place and Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet was fifth in 9:27.93.