Newly crowned world 5,000m champion, Helen Obiri has attributed her victory to a plan they hatched with Olympic champion, Vivian Cheruiyot prior to the race.
“I spoke to Vivian (Cheruiyot) and she helped me plan for the race. She told me not to let Ayana go alone and that is what I did and it paid off,” said Obiri.
Obiri produced an astonishing last lap to leave defending champion Almaz Ayana in her wake as she won the women’s 5,000 metres at the World Athletics Championships and claimed her first major title on Sunday.
Ethiopia’s Ayana, who led Obiri for more than half the race, was denied a double after winning the 10,000 metres with a devastating run earlier on at the championships. The pair broke clear of the pack after one third of the race and opened up a huge gap as they set a blistering pace.
Ayana led with Obiri on her shoulder into the final lap until the Kenyan, silver medallist in Rio de Janeiro last year, burst past with 300 metres left and stormed home to win in 14:34.86, more than five seconds clear of her rival. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands prevented an East African clean sweep by taking the bronze.
The race was a repeat of the Olympic Games where, Ayana ran away with the 10,000m race but was denied the 5,000m by Cheruiyot and Obiri, settling for a bronze.
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands spoiled what would have been an East African party by taking the bronze. “I was telling myself to go because I could see Ayana was not moving,” said Obiri. “I am mentally strong so I knew I was capable.”
It was always going to be an enthralling contest. Obiri, 27, has steadily moved closer to a major title over the course of her career and had won all of her races this summer over 5,000 metres, clocking the fastest time of the year when she ran 14:18.37 in Rome.
There was a cagey start with the first 400 metres taking a painfully slow 81 seconds before Ayana and Obiri took control. Ayana seized the initiative with nine laps left, Obiri followed and after steadily increasing the gap, they were more than 50 metres clear with four to go. The Ethiopian tried several times to pull away but Obiri responded each time before producing her deadly final push.
“It was a difficult race. I am better at leading it to get the win rather than challenging in a final sprint. It was difficult to push Hellen through to the finish line,” said Ayana. “Compared to Rio this is a bigger achievement. I’ve had many injuries this year so I am very happy with two medals.”