2023 Worlds W 10K Preview: Gidey v Tsegay v Hassan in Battle of World & Olympic Champs

One of the great things about the World Athletics Championships is that it used to start with a big distance final on day 1 — either the men’s or women’s 10,000 meters. For some reason, World Athletics got away from that in the last two World Championships — last year in Eugene, the only final the folks who bought tickets on day 1 got to see was the mixed 4×400 relay. Things are back to normal in 2023, and fans lucky enough to get a ticket on day 1 in Budapest — Saturday, August 19 — should see a terrific session. There are prelims in the men’s 100 and 1500, the men’s shot put final featuring the GOAT Ryan Crouser, and, at 8:55 p.m. local time, a terrific women’s 10,000-meter final.

How’s this for a potential top three?

  • World record holder and reigning world champion Letesenbet Gidey (29:01 pb)
  • Olympic champion Sifan Hassan (29:06 pb, #2 all-time)
  • Reigning 5,000 world champion Gudaf Tsegay (29:29 pb, #4 all-time)

In all, there will be five sub-30:00 women on the start line — a record for a women’s race — plus British record holder Eilish McColgan (30:00 pb), American record holder Alicia Monson (30:03 pb), and US champion Elise Cranny (30:14 pb). It’s a great way to kick off what should be a fantastic nine days of athletics in the Hungarian capital. We preview the race below.

Final: Saturday, August 19, 2:55 p.m. ET

2022 Worlds results
1. Letesenbet Gidey, Ethiopia 30:09.94
2. Hellen Obiri, Kenya 30:10.02
3. Margaret Kipkemboi, Kenya 30:10.07
4. Sifan Hassan, Netherlands 30:10.56
5. Rahel Daniel, Eritrea 30:12.15

2023’s fastest performers (among women entered) *Full entries
1. Gudaf Tsegay, Ethiopia 29:29.73
2. Sifan Hassan, Netherlands 29:37.80
3. Grace Nawowuna, Kenya 29:47.42
4. Ejgayehu Taye, Ethiopia 29:57.45
5. Lemlem Hailu, Ethiopia 29:59.15

Your three medalists should be…

Letesenbet Gidey, Sifan Hassan, and Gudaf Tsegay sit #1, #2, and #4 on the all-time list at 10,000 meters. Between them, they have won every gold medal on offer at 5,000 or 10,000 meters at the last two global championships. Chances are, one of them will add to that tally in Budapest. The question is who.

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Gidey kicked to gold in 2022 (Kevin Morris photo)

Let’s start with the defending champ. Entering last year’s Worlds, Gidey’s reputation was that of a superb time trialer who lacked the kick to win big races. That was a little unfair given she was outkicked at the 2019 Worlds and 2021 Olympics by a version of Sifan Hassan that any woman in history would have struggled to kick against. If Gidey were to win gold, the thinking went, she would need to drop everyone before the home straight.

Then Gidey showed up to Worlds and prevailed in a (slightly controversial) four-way kick to win the 10,000 thanks to a 60.77 last lap. Turns out she can kick pretty well.

Gidey has only run one track race since the 2022 Worlds as she has been busy running other events. In December, she made the fastest marathon debut in history with her 2:16:49 in Valencia. And in February, she came seconds away from winning the world cross country title before collapsing in the Australian heat. Gidey did not return to the track until June 9 in Paris, but she showed there she is still plenty fit as she ran 14:07 (the #3 time in history) to finish second behind Faith Kipyegon‘s world record. At 25, Gidey is still in her prime. Expect to see a similar version to the woman who won gold a year ago in Eugene.

Tsegay, meanwhile, has been even better in 2023 than she was in 2022 — and that’s saying something considering she won world indoor (1500) and outdoor (5,000) titles last year. So far in 2023, Tsegay has run six races. She has won all six, setting world leaders in five of them and personal bests in four of them. The highlights:

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February 8, Torun: 4:16.16 mile, #2 all-time indoors.
February 25, Birmingham: 8:16.69 3000, #2 all-time indoors, .09 off the world record. Faster than any non-Chinese woman has run outdoors.
May 28, Rabat: 3:54.03 1500, #2 on 2023 world list behind Kipyegon’s world record.
June 23, Nerja: 29:29.73 10,000, #4 all-time. Won Ethiopian 10k trials by 28 seconds.
July 23, London: 14:12.29 5,000, #4 all-time. Outkicked Hassan and reigning Worlds silver medalist Beatrice Chebet.

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Tsegay also has a deadly kick thanks to her background as a 1500 runner (she earned silver at Worlds last year behind Kipyegon). Last year, she closed out her 5,000 world title with a 59.95 final 400 (outkicking Gidey and Hassan) and in London last month she closed her 14:12 with a 60.3 last lap.

Then there’s Hassan. It should be noted that Hassan is entered in the 1500, 5k, and 10k in Budapest and has not made a final decision. In June, Hassan said she was planning on running the 5k and 10k only at Worlds, but with Hassan, things are always subject to change. Her coach Tim Rowberry told LetsRun that the 10k is the event Hassan is least likely to scratch, but he said Hassan will not not announce final her plan until August 17, two days before Worlds begins.

“We realize we’ve been playing catch-up this entire year with one of the most competitive women’s distance fields in a long time,” Rowberry wrote in a message to LetsRun.com. “The competitors make doubling very hard to consider and the schedule makes it even worse. We are still considering every possibility including scenarios like only running the 10k and then focusing on [the] Chicago [Marathon in October].”

Considering the 1500 prelims are on the same day as the 10k final (the prelims are at 1:15 p.m., the final at 8:55 p.m.), a 1500/10k double seems unlikely. The guess here is Hassan will be fresh for the 10k final.

One of the reasons Hassan is playing catch-up is that back in April, she won one of the wildest London Marathons in history. You may be wondering: has anyone ever won a marathon in the spring and a world title in the summer?

Sifan Hassan wins 2023 TCS London Marathon (photo by Kevin Morris) Hassan won London four months ago (Kevin Morris photo)

Yes. Actually, it’s happened twice. In 1987, Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen won London on May 10 and the Worlds 10,000 on September 4 (117 days apart). And in 2001, Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu won London on April 22 and the Worlds 10,000 on August 7 (107 days apart). Hassan, with 118 days between races, would have a longer gap than either of them.

Hassan has shown she can transition between events quickly and has already run 29:37 and 14:13 (a personal best) this summer since returning from the marathon. But this is a different Hassan than the unbeatable 2019-21 version. In the London DL 5k, it was telling that Hassan was the one at the front driving the pace from a mile out. She closed that race in 61.6 — not bad at all considering she ran 14:13 — but was well-beaten by Tsegay over the final 100. Unless Hassan can rediscover her kick from a few years ago, she will go into this race as the underdog.

Outside shots at a medal

Six women have broken 30:00 for 10,000 this year (with a seventh, Eilish McColgan, at 30:00), which is the most in history and makes for a deep competition at Worlds. Based on past accomplishments, Gidey, Hassan, and Tsegay will be favored for a medal, but there are a few women who could crash the podium with a breakthrough race. One of them is 19-year-old Grace Nawowuna of Kenya. She showed great potential by finishing 4th in the senior race at World XC in February and running 29:47 to finish 2nd behind Hassan in Hengelo on June 3. But she was also only 10th in the Paris DL 5k (six days after Hengelo) in 14:42 and just 6th in the Kenyan 10k trials. She may be a year or two away from medal contention.

The other two Ethiopians could be factors as well. Ejgayehu Taye was 6th at Worlds last year and this year has run 14:13 in Paris and finished 2nd at the Ethiopian 10k trials this year. Lemlem Hailu was well behind Taye in Paris (7th in 14:34) but much closer at the Ethiopian trials (29:59 to Taye’s 29:57). She’s also the reigning world indoor champion at 3,000 meters.

After winning the Commonwealth title last year and running 30:00 in March, Eilish McColgan was looking set for a big improvement on her 10th-place finish from 2022. But to earn a medal, absolutely everything would have had to break right for McColgan and after battling a knee injury this spring that forced her to withdraw from the London Marathon in April, a medal is a long shot at this point.

Simple math says it will be very tough for an American to medal, especially if the race plays out like last year, which saw a 30:09 winning time after Gidey and Taye traded off the lead. When the American record is 30:00 and the top three women in the field have pbs under 29:30, it’s very hard to overcome that sort of gap in fitness.

Elise Cranny Wins 10,000m at 2023 USATF Champs It was no contest for Cranny on the last lap at USAs (Kevin Morris Photo)

The best scenario for the Americans would be to hope for a slower race (the early forecast says temperatures and humidity in the 70s during the race, so it’s possible) that is settled with a mad dash over the last lap. That’s how Emily Infeld won the last US medal in this event in 2015. If US champ Elise Cranny is still there at the bell, she could be a factor, especially if Hassan scratches or Gidey/Tsegay experiences an issue. Cranny is coming off a 4:16 mile pb in Monaco, which would have been the American record had Nikki Hiltz not beaten her to it. The problem is that the 2023 field is much stronger than 2015 and as a result the race is less likely to go slow (in 2015, 31:43 was good enough for bronze).

Alicia Monson has had a great year and is coming off an American record of 14:19 for 5,000 in London in her last race. But she’s still not quite fit enough to medal in a fast race, and as we saw at USAs, not good enough to outkick Cranny in a slow one. Given the quality of this field, Monson or Cranny could run a great race and still finish 6th or 7th. The third American on the team, Natosha Rogers, will look to improve on her 15th-place finish from last year.

JG prediction: 1) Tsegay 2) Gidey 3) Hassan

Gidey kicked well in last year’s final but Tsegay has been on fire in 2023 and is the better kicker. Considering Tsegay has also run 29:29 this year, it seems hard to imagine Gidey dropping her in Budapest, so Tsegay FTW. Hassan’s kick is not what it once was but apart from the top two, she’s still stronger and faster than the rest of the field.

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Quick 5,000 preview

We’ll have a longer preview of the 5,000 once the 1500 and 10k are over since many of the top women from those events are doubling back. Tsegay, Gidey, Hassan, and potentially Taye are all doubling back from the 10k (the Ethiopian federation can be capricious when it comes to doubles, but at the very least expect to see Tsegay and Gidey in the 5k). And the presumptive 1500 champion, Faith Kipyegon, is also doubling in the 5k — the first time she has run the longer event at a global championship. Of the women running the 5,000 fresh, reigning Worlds silver medalist/World XC champ Beatrice Chebet of Kenya is the one to watch.

Tsegay and Chebet are both in great shape but will enter as underdogs to Kipyegon, who has a monster kick and set a world record of 14:05 (with a 60.6 last lap!) in her first 5,000 in eight years in Paris in June. No woman has won the 5k/10k double at Worlds since Vivian Cheruiyot in 2011, and no woman has ever done it in the 1500/5k, but given the talent in both events in 2023, there’s a good chance one of those droughts ends this year. More to come on this event once we’re in Budapest.

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