2018 World Indoors M 3K Preview: Paul Chelimo Goes For His First Global Gold Against A Trio Of Ethiopian Studs

By LetsRun.com
February 27, 2018

The only senior global track championship of 2018 is upon us as the IAAF World Indoor Championships will be held this week in Birmingham, England. We’re previewing the distance events this week at LetsRun.com, and now it’s time to take a look at the men’s 3000 meters.

Believe it or not, the men’s 3000 has actually been one of Team USA’s best events at World Indoors in recent years. With gold medals from Bernard Lagat in 2010 and 2012 and silvers from Lagat in 2014 and Ryan Hill in 2016, it’s been a decade since the U.S. failed to medal in this event. That’s a far better medal haul than the men’s 400 meters — an event in which the Americans have been dominant historically — where the U.S. has earned just two bronze medals in the past four World Indoor Championships.

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Chelimo completed a 1500/3k double at USAs

Chelimo completed a 1500/3k double at USAs this year

The 3k medal streak should continue in 2018 as the U.S. has one of the world’s best distance runners in Paul Chelimo. Like his fellow Kenyan-American Lagat, the 27-year-old Chelimo has ascended to the top of the U.S. ranks and has begun to collect global medals, earning Olympic silver in Rio and World Championship bronze in London, both at 5000 meters. Chelimo lost to Mo Farah in both these races, but with Farah moving up to the marathon (and 2017 world champ Muktar Edris not running World Indoors), this is his best chance yet at his first world title.

Chelimo’s main competition comes in the form of a trio of Ethiopians: reigning World Indoor champ Yomif Kejelcha, three-time global medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet, and World U20 5000 champion Selemon Barega, the world leader at 7:36.64, the fastest time indoors in four years. How good are the Ethiopians? 5000 world champ Muktar Edris ran a 3000 this year, but after running 7:40.69 — over four seconds behind Barega — he was not even selected for their team.

This race has taken on some added intrigue now that Farah has left for the roads. Farah was the dominant force in global distance running for most of the 2010s and now there is a void to fill. We’ve already seen a few guys state their case — Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei was 2nd in the 10,000 in London last year, while Edris actually beat Farah to win the 5,000 at Worlds — but it will take a few years, at least, for anyone to build the credentials necessary to become the unassailable World #1. But with four potential Farah successors in the field in Chelimo, Kejelcha, Gebrhiwet, and Barega and the next global championship 19 months away, a win in Birmingham would be a nice start for anyone looking to make that case.

Meet details below, followed by a preview of the race. We’ll have boots on the ground in Birmingham to give you the scoop from the pros, so be sure to check back all week for our coverage. Our special World Indoor section with all of our content can be found here.

What: 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships

When: March 1-4, 2018

Where: Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England

Schedule * Entries * TV/streaming information * All LRC coverage

Men’s 3000 (prelims Friday, 7:50 a.m. ET; final Sunday, 10:35 a.m. ET): Can Chelimo deliver gold for the U.S.?

Name Country PB SB Comment
Selemon Barega ETH 7:36.64 7:36.64 Beat Edris to win in his only indoor race this year. Junior star.
Hagos Gebrhiwet ETH 7:32.87 7:37.91 Beat Kejelcha and Iguider this year. Lost to King Ches in Boston
Yomif Kejelcha ETH 7:38.67 7:38.67
IAAF Wold Indoor Tour winner & reigning champ. Now in Nike Oregon Project. Beaten by Chelimo in last race.
Abdelaati Iguider MAR 7:34.92 7:39.92
2012 world indoor 1500 champ. Also entered in 1500. Was 3rd in his only 3k this year.
Adel Mechaal ESP 7:40.14 7:40.14 4th, 6th, and 4th in his 3 3ks this year but has run fast. 4th in 1500 at ’17 Worlds
Bethwell Kiprotich Birgen KEN 7:37.17 7:40.56 5th and 2nd in his 2 3ks this year
Albert Kibichii Rop BRN 7:38.77 7:42.34 6th and 5th in 2 3ks this year
Davis Kiplangat KEN 7:40.12 7:40.12 4th in Glasgow in his last race
Shadrack Kipchirchir USA 7:42.71 7:42.71 Running great but competing at this level is not as easy
Julian Oakley NZL 7:44.34 7:44.34
Mohammed Ayoub Tiouali BRN 7:44.58 7:44.58
Jamal Abdi Dirieh DJI 7:45.96 7:45.96
Richard Ringer GER 7:46.18 7:46.18
Hamish Carson NZL 7:47.22 7:47.22
Kemoy Campbell JAM 7:40.79 7:47.43
Youssouf Hiss Bachir DJI 7:43.44 7:48.75
Younes Essalhi MAR 7:47.50 7:49.69
Jonathan Davies GBR 7:50.18 7:50.18
Thierry Ndikumwenayo BDI 7:50.19 7:50.19
Yassin Bouih ITA 7:50.94 7:50.94
Clemens Bleistein GER 7:51.51 7:51.51
Paul Kipkemoi Chelimo USA 7:39.00 7:52.88
Don’t let the seed time confuse you. Definitely one of the favorites. Olympic and World 5000 medals
Federico Bruno ARG 7:55.41

Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider is a former World Indoor champ and an Olympic medalist, but he is on the downswing of his career — he failed to make the World Championship final last year and turns 31 on March 25. Spain’s Adel Mechaal was 4th in the 1500 at Worlds last year but has looked outmatched by the top Africans on the circuit this year. Bethwell Birgen and Albert Rop are solid runners but haven’t shown anything to suggest they’ll medal in Birmingham. 19-year-old Kenyan Davis Kiplangat has potential but bombed at Worlds last year — he was lapped in his 5000 prelim.

All of which is to say that this race likely comes down to the four men we mentioned in our intro — Chelimo and the three Ethiopians.

Chelimo and Kejelcha were basically neck-and-neck last year. Here were the results of their four encounters:

May 5, Doha 3000
2. Chelimo 7:31.57
3. Kejelcha 7:32.27

May 27, Pre Classic 5000
2. Kejelcha 13:01.21
7. Chelimo 13:10.11

August 12, Worlds 5000
3. Chelimo 13:33.30
4. Kejelcha 13:33.51

August 24, Zurich 5000
3. Kejelcha 13:06.18
Chelimo DQ’d (originally ran 13:06.09 but was DQ’d for a foul at the finish line)

Aside from Pre, all three matchups were very close. The trend has continued into 2018, as Chelimo finished just .26 of a second ahead of Kejelcha, who is now training under Alberto Salazar in the Nike Oregon Project, on Sunday in Glasgow. They went 2-3 in that race, but the winner, Justus Soget of Kenya, is not running Worlds.

Embed from Getty Images

Kejelcha has raced two other 3ks this year. He won in Dusseldorf on February 6, but three days earlier, he was beaten by Gebrhiwet in Karlsruhe. That race by Gebrhiwet was the single most impressive by anyone in the field this year. He ran 7:37 in his first race in 10 months, and he did it by closing in a savage 25.62 for his final 200, leaving the reigning World Indoor champ Kejelcha in his dust. If he runs like that in Birmingham, he’ll win — it’s extremely difficult to close faster than 25.62 in a 3000, let alone a sub-7:40 3000. But in Gebrhiwet’s next race in Boston a week later, he got his doors blown off by Edward Cheserek, running 7:41 and closing in 30.29. If that Gebrhiwet shows up in Birmingham, he may not even medal.

Then there’s Barega. He was a few steps behind Chelimo and Kejelcha last year (he was 5th at Worlds and 4th at the DL final in Zurich) but his one race this year was spectacular — as we mentioned earlier, he ran 7:36 in Lievin on February 13, the fastest time in the world since 2014, to beat Muktar Edris by 4+ seconds. Barega is officially only 18 years old, and while Ethiopian ages can be questionable, there’s no question about his talent as he ran 12:55 last year and collected titles at the World U20 champs in 2016 and the World U18 champs last year.

Chelimo’s talent has not been in question either, ever since his Olympic silver in 2016, but he was outmatched at times tactically in 2016 and 2017. At USAs this year, however, he turned that weakness into a strength by using Farah’s preferred strategy — get to the front with a lap or two to go and fight tooth and nail to hold it until the finish line. If he can do that again at Worlds, he has a great chance to win, but grabbing — and holding — the lead against the Ethiopians in Birmingham will be a lot harder than it was against the Americans in Albuquerque.

Chelimo’s training partner Shadrack Kipchirchir is the other American in the field, and while he’s looked great domestically this year, let’s not forget that the 10,000 – remember he ran 27:07 at Worlds last year – is his best event. Kipchirchir’s improvement this indoor season has been impressive, and he may be able to sneak a medal if he runs his best race and the Ethiopians are off their game. But that’s unlikely as he doesn’t have the same wheels as most of the contenders. Even finishing in the top five here would be a very good showing for Kipchirchir.

LRC prediction: You can make a case for any of the “Big Four” to win. Considering Kejelcha is 0-2 against the other three guys this year, he’s probably the guy least likely to win, but he’s also the defending champ. We like the improved tactics Chelimo demonstrated at USAs though. If he can get to the lead somewhere between 400 and 200 to go, he could hold everyone off and win his first global title. But come on, he just lost to an 18-year old from Kenya who isn’t even running at Worlds. Our pick there is BAREGA. A messageboard poster wrote that the great Haile G has annointed him as the next Ethiopian great so that’s good enough for us. MB: Ethiopia finally found a successor of kenenisa

Speaking of the messageboard, tell us who you think will win: MB: Who wins the men’s 3k at 2018 Worlds? Can Paul Chelimo best Barega, Gebrhiwet, Kejelcha, and Birgen?

PS. Can someone tell us how Kenya picks its World Indoor team and why more Kenyans don’t do it and why 18-year old Justus Soget isn’t running Worlds? First place at Worlds pays $40,000. That’s a TON for distance running. It’s nearly equal to the DL jackpot and yet Kenya only has one entrant in the men’s 1500. How does that make sense? We only mention that here in the 3k preview because the 18-year old Justus Soget who beat Paul Chelimo on Sunday in Glasgow in the 3k would be a fine 1500 entrant. Last year, he ran 3:32.97 at age 17 and he’s run an indoor campaign this year. But he’d probably be an even better 3k entrant given his win over Chelimo. And if we were Bethwell Birgen, who won the IAAF World Indoor Tour in the 1500 last year and the 1500 in Glasgow last weekend, we’d much rather be in the 1500 than the 3k as the 1500 is much weaker than this event.

So if you have a good explanation for why Soget isn’t running Worlds other than Kenyan incompetence, let us know.

PPS. What if Edward Cheserek were in this race? Someone on the House of Run podcast kicked around the idea of Cheserek being allowed to compete as an Authorized Neutral Athlete — like the Russians have at the Olympics and Worlds. That’s not exactly fair — the Russians can’t compete for Russia, and nothing is stopping Cheserek from competing for Kenya — but it would have been awesome to see Cheserek at Worlds as he’s clearly one of the best distance runners on the planet right now.

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