Hellen Obiri Returns To Her Winning Ways, Defends 5000 Title With 14:26.72 Championship Record

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By LetsRun.com
October 5, 2019

DOHA, Qatar — The 2019 outdoor track season certainly hadn’t been a smooth affair for Kenya’s Hellen Obiri. Obiri, the reigning 5000 and world cross country champ, had won 13 of her last 14 5000s entering 2019, but suffered losses in two of her three Diamond League 5000s this year. In Stockholm, she finished 12th after a fall, while in the Diamond League final, she was just 4th. In her other big track races, she finished 6th in the 3000 at Pre, was defeated in the 10,000 at the Kenyan Trials, and failed to medal in the 10,000 last Saturday night, where she was just 5th.

All of that is largely forgotten now as Obiri front-ran her way to a repeat title in the women’s 5000 this evening at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, winning in a championship-record time of 14:26.72, thanks to a 58.41 final lap. Fellow Kenyan Margaret Kipkemboi took the silver with a 14:27.49 pb (previous pb of 14:31.69) with Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen earning Germany’s first-ever 5000 medal in third in 14:28.43. 21-year-old Ethiopian Tsehay Gemechu showed she’s someone to look out for in future years as she lowered her pb from 14:59.79 to 14:29.60, but that wasn’t enough to medal as she was 4th. American Karissa Schweizer was 9th in a pb of 14:45.18, her second PB at Worlds (previous pb of 14:52.41, her pb before Worlds was 15:01.63). She’s now the 5th on the all-time US women’s list.

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Kipkemboi, Gemechu, and Schweizer weren’t the only ones to PR in this one as 11 of the 15 women in the field PR’d including, the second American in the final (Elle Purrier, 14:58.17, previous pb of 15:08.61).

The Race

With Obiri and Great Britain’s Eilish McColgan (10th in a 14:46.17 pb) sharing much of the lead, the first 1600 was covered in 4:45.35. Obiri decided that wasn’t fast enough and ran her next lap in 67.13 to get things going. She led a pack of six through 3200 in 9:20.32 (4:34.97 second 1600). The pace then slowed though as the next two laps were run in 72.03, 72.71 as Obiri hit 4k in 11:45.06. Things only increased a little bit on the next lap (69.87) as this one was going to come down to the last 600. Obiri squeezed things down a little bit on the third-to-last 200 (33.38) as the lead pack was winnowed down to the eventual top four at the bell. Obiri’s final lap was run with a positive split (28.85, 29.56), but she still won comfortably.

Results
1 Hellen OBIRI KEN 14:26.72 CR
2 Margaret Chelimo KIPKEMBOI KEN 14:27.49 PB
3 Konstanze KLOSTERHALFEN GER 14:28.43
4 Tsehay GEMECHU ETH 14:29.60 PB
5 Lilian Kasait RENGERUK KEN 14:36.05 PB
6 Fantu WORKU ETH 14:40.47 PB
7 Laura WEIGHTMAN GBR 14:44.57 PB
8 Hawi FEYSA ETH 14:44.92
9 Karissa SCHWEIZER USA 14:45.18 PB
10 Eilish MCCOLGAN GBR 14:46.17 PB
11 Elinor PURRIER USA 14:58.17 PB
12 Camille BUSCOMB NZL 14:58.59 PB
13 Andrea SECCAFIEN CAN 14:59.95 PB
14 Nozomi TANAKA JPN 15:00.01 PB
15 Dominique SCOTT RSA 15:24.47

Quick Take: It’s a good thing Obiri chose to run this event

After getting demolished by Sifan Hassan in the 10k a week ago, Hellen Obiri was looking for answers. Utterly dejected in the mixed zone, Obiri seemed to regret running an XC season — even though she won the world title — and was considering shutting down her season rather than running the 5k in Doha.

Obiri said however that some people from Kenya called her and told her to run the 5k. She was still against the idea. Then they kept persisting and told her to just run the first round and see how she felt.

With Hassan gone and Ethiopia stupidly not letting 10k silver medalist Letesenbet Gidey double back, this event had no clear favorite. Obiri was rejuvenated in the prelims, winning her heat in 14:52, and was back to her brilliant best tonight.

Now Obiri joins an elite list of women to have won the World XC long race and a World/Olympic track title in the same year:

1984: Maricica Puica (Olympic 3k)
1999: Gete Wami (World 10k)
2000: Derartu Tulu (Olympic 10k)
2005: Tirunesh Dibaba (World 10k/5k)
2008: Tirunesh Dibaba (Olympic 10k/5k)
2011: Vivian Cheruiyot (World 10k/5k)
2019: Hellen Obiri (World 5k)

Obiri said the one thing missing from her resume is the Olympic title. She said she still would consider going after the 10k title in Tokyo. (Video with Obiri’s comments here)

Quick Take: Konstanze Klosterhalfen ends the non-African-born drought

Tonight, Klosterhalfen became the first non-African-born woman to medal in the 5,000 at Worlds or the Olympics since 2003. And even going back that far may not be long enough. That 2003 medalist was Spain’s Marta Dominguez, who was later banned for biological passport anomalies. Go back to 2001, and two non-African-born women medalled, but one was Dominguez and one was Russia’s Olga Yegorova, who tested positive for EPO that year and was later banned for manipulating drug samples.

You have to go all the way back to the silver by Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan at the 2000 Olympics to find the last non-African-born medalist before tonight who wasn’t tainted by doping. Klosterhalfen, of course, is part of a group whose head coach was just banned for four years for anti-doping violations — though Klosterhalfen only joined the Oregon Project at the end of last year and is coached by Pete Julian, not Salazar.

Quick Take: The Americans ran really well tonight

Though Karissa Schweizer and Elle Purrier were only 9th and 11th tonight, you can’t do much better than PRing by 7 seconds (Schweizer) and 10 seconds (Purrier) in the World Championship final. The problem for them was 11 of the 15 women in the field ran PRs tonight as the pace was fast throughout.

For whatever reason, the 5k is the event the American women just can’t crack. Since 2015, Americans have claimed World Champs medals in the 800, 1500, steeple, 10k, and marathon, but have finished no better than 9th in the 5k. In fact, an American woman has never medalled in this event at the Olympics or Worlds.

Could Schweizer get there one day? She’s only 23, which is younger than any of the women ahead of her on the all-time US list were when they ran their PRs. And American 5,000 running is definitely moving in the right direction: the American record stood at 14:44.80 at the start of this decade, but since then it’s been broken four times by three different women (Shelby Houlihan has it right now at 14:34.45).

Props too, to Purrier, who took on an entirely new event in her first full year as a pro and finished 11th at Worlds in it, joining the sub-15:00 club in the process.

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