East Africa will be expected to dominate the 10,000m but the burning question is: which nation – and, for that matter, which athlete – will come out on top?
Uganda has never won a men’s track title in IAAF World Championships history but Joshua Cheptegei could be the man to crack the code.
The 23-year-old won the world 10,000m silver medal in London and served further notice of his all-round qualities this year by winning the world cross-country crown in Aarhus and taking an audacious 5000m victory at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich courtesy of a courageous front-running display.
He is joined on a strong-looking Ugandan team by world cross-country silver medallist Jacob Kiplimo, who hasn’t competed on the track at all this year and whose last race was a road 10km in May, and Abdallah Kibet Mande (27:22.89).
Ethiopia presents a formidable challenge led by the experienced two-time world 5000m medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet. The 25-year-old set a world-leading 26:48.95 in Hengelo at the Ethiopian Trials and with four podium finishes over 5000m on the IAAF Diamond League circuit this year there is much to commend his chances over the 25-lap distance.
His compatriot Selemon Barega is also a top-quality athlete as evidenced last year by racing to fourth place on the world all-time 5000m list with a scintillating 12:43.02 in Brussels. The 19-year-old has shown great consistency this year with a trio of second-place finishes over 5000m on the IAAF Diamond League circuit in addition to the national U20 record of 26:49.46 he posted for second in Hengelo.
The third man at the Ethiopian Trials, Yomif Kejelcha, will surely also feature after enjoying another supreme campaign.
Kejelcha set a world indoor mile record in March and claimed a trio of Diamond League wins – in Shanghai, Stanford and Lausanne – over 5000m before finishing third at the Ethiopian Trials on his 10,000m debut (26:49.99). The US-based athlete may have limited experience over the 25-lap distance but his sheer class cannot be overlooked and he is a serious podium challenger.
The fourth Ethiopian (only three of their entered athletes will compete) is Andamluk Belihu, who finished eighth at the World Cross Country Championships earlier this year and who set a 10,000m PB of 26:55.15 for fourth at the Ethiopian Trials.
Surprisingly, Kenya has not won this title since Charles Kamathi triumphed in Edmonton 18 years ago and the man best placed to end the drought is world U20 champion Rhonex Kipruto. The teenager claimed a classy 10,000m victory in Stockholm in 26:50.16, and a second-place finish at the Kenyan Championships – behind world half marathon record-holder Geoffrey Kamworor – was another confidence-boosting display.
He is joined on the Kenyan team by 2016 world U20 champion Rodgers Kwemoi (27:26.92) and Alex Korio (27:29.40).
Aron Kifle of Eritrea is another from East Africa who could challenge. The 2018 world half marathon bronze medallist who placed fourth at the World Cross Country Championships in March is a class act and recently won a 10,000m silver medal at the African Games in Rabat.
The European assault is led by the rapidly improving Julien Wanders. The Swiss athlete earlier this year set a world 5km road record and posted a European half marathon record. His outstanding form has been transferred to the track and in Hengelo in July he set a national 10,000m record of 27:17.29 for ninth.
Sondre Nordstad Moen, who set a Norwegian 10,000m record of 27:24.78 in Kristiansand in August, is also entered along with European 10,000m bronze medallist Yemaneberhan Crippa of Italy.
The US challenge is headed by 2009 world 1500m finalist Lopez Lomong. The 34-year-old secured the US 10,000m title in Des Moines, setting a PB of 27:30.06.
Canadian record-holder (27:02.35) Mohammed Ahmed, a fourth-place finisher over 5000m at the Rio Olympics, is also entered.
Steve Landells for the IAAF