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Women's 5000m Heats at Worlds Recap: Favorites Advance
The semifinals of the women's 5000m were nearly completely unnecessary. 23 women started to eliminate 8 from the Friday's final of 15.
The big news was that all the favorites easily advanced, Meseret Defar ran and sprinted all the way to the line to win her heat after cratering in the final 50 m of the 10k final, the Russian women did horribly, and American Julie Culley was eliminated. But the biggest news was perhaps that Olympic 10k silver medallist Elvan Abeylegesse, who dropped out of the 10k final, did not start heat 1.
Japan's Yurika Nakamura tried to keep things honest and was 4:59 at 1600 and 10:57 at 3200. There were 2 16 minute runners in the field Inés Melchor and Marriam Thole and they were off the back.
The real running started with 2 to go and that is when the USA's Culley and Russia's Natalya Popkova were dropped. That left 6 up front for the 5 automatic spots in the final. Japan's Yurika Nakamura was the first loser but her early pacemaking duties were rewarded with a time qualifer for the final. Sentayehu Ejigu of Ethiopia won the heat, Sylvia Kibet, Kenya's "Forgotten Lady" (4th at last year's Olympics), was second, and Meselech Melkamu after blowing the women's 10k final was back and third.
We talked to Culley after the race before heat 2 took place. Interview on the right. She indicated a sciatic nerve problem has been bothering her of late.
Heat 2: Rhines Advances, Defar Sprints to the Line
Heat 2 started slightly slower than heat 1 and was still slower at 4k (12:28 versus 12:27). American Jen Rhines did Culley no favors and got the real running started with 3 laps to go as she went to the front to push the pace and ensure an automatic time qualifier for the final. 9 women were still together at that point and all 9 would make the final as long as they were under 15:32.
The sorting out of the 9 did not take place until the final lap and the five automatic qualifiers were all of African origin. With the emergence of the Kenyan women the last 3 years, the women's longer distance races are starting to look more like the men's, African dominated affairs.
Leading the field was Meseret Defar. Defar who cratered the final 50 of the women's 10k when she seemed on her way to gold, sprinted all the way to the line. Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya, 5th last year and the silver medallist in 2007 was right with her. Rhines would finish sixth and get a spot in the final.
Defar after the race said she sprinted at the end to see how she was feeling as she has been under the weather. She said, "I pushed the pace because I've been a little bit sick, and I wanted to see how my body would respond. I feel OK. I'm pleased I qualified because I really want to win the final."
Afterwards Rhines in the interview in the right said she knew she was going to make the final so she saved a little something for the final. She said she did not mind running a round because it shook out some of the rust. Overall, she feels good about her preparations for the final which has been her focus all year. Last year in Beijing Rhines was 14th and in Osaka she was 7th.