Almaz Ayana leads the 5000m at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
World champion Almaz Ayana will start as the big favourite, especially after her run of 14:12.59 which scared the world record at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome back at the start of June, her last run over the distance, but her prospects in this event have to be put in context of what she may or may not have achieved in the 10,000m.
The longer distance will have been run as a straight final on the opening day of the athletics programme, four days before her 5000m heat.
She will either embark her 5000m campaign having already got a gold medal around her neck, and be aiming to become just the second woman to win the distance double at the Olympic Games after her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba in 2008, or be seeking revenge and a modicum of redemption for falling short in an event in which she came to Rio as the fastest woman in the world this year.
In addition to the psychological background, there is also the issue about how well Ayana will have physically recovered from her outing over 25 laps of the track.
There is no doubting her conditioning and physical prowess but she is also inexperienced over 10,000m, having run just one competitive race before when she won the de facto Ethiopian trial in Hengelo on 29 June.
How much will having run the 10,000m have taken out of her, regardless of the result, will be the prevailing question before the gun goes for the 5000m heats on Tuesday 16 August.
Ayana out-thought her compatriots Senbere Teferi and Genzebe Dibaba at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 just under 12 months ago as the trio took a clean sweep of the medals.
However, three Ethiopian runners on the podium seems far less likely this time around.
Dibaba is concentrating on the 1500m while Teferi has not looked quite the runner she did last summer and has had to settle for third and fourth places in 5000m races at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Rabat and Rome.
Ethiopia’s third runner, Yeshaneh Ababel, has some international experience and came ninth in the 10,000m at the 2013 World Championships but can only be considered an outsider for a medal on current form.
Kenyans aim to challenge
The strongest challenge to Ayana this time around could come from the Kenyan contingent: Hellen Obiri, Mercy Cherono and two-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot.
Obiri, the 2012 world indoor 3000m champion, has successfully moved up in distance this year after having spent most of her professional career running 1500m, the distance at which she was a finalist in London four years ago.
She won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene in a personal best of 14:32.02, the second fastest woman in 2016 among the entries, although it will hardly need pointing out that she is almost 20 seconds slower than Ayana on current form.
Cherono was second behind Ayana in Rome in a personal best of 14:33.95 and, like Obiri, the 2013 world silver medallist has left the clear impression this summer that there is plenty of potential to do even better.
By contrast, Cheruiyot’s best days over the shorter distance may be behind her and although she is the world 10,000m champion – and will have also run that event in Rio – she has looked to be struggling to change gears in 3000m and 5000m races in the past 18 months.
Outsiders for a place on the podium, although not completely without their chances, include Turkey’s European gold medallist Yasemin Can and her predecessor as continental champion, Sweden’s Meraf Bahta.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF