Kenya's Beatrice Chepkoech in the steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
Beatrice Chepkoech has waited two long years for her chance to make amends for what happened at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
The Kenyan steeplechaser headed to the British capital seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough, but she greatly reduced her chances of a medal in the opening stages when she missed the water jump and had to double back to clear it, losing valuable ground on the leaders.
She eventually finished one place shy of a medal in fourth, replicating her finish from the 2016 Olympic Games one year prior.
Chepkoech rebounded two weeks later when she clocked a PB of 8:59.84 to finish second at the IAAF Diamond League final, finishing comfortably ahead of world champion Emma Coburn. And she continued her breakthrough in 2018 by breaking the world record with 8:44.32 in Monaco. Ever since, she has consolidated her status as the world’s No.1 steeplechaser.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Chepkoech has won 15 of her 17 races, including heats, and has picked up two Diamond trophies as well as victories at the 2018 African Championships and Continental Cup. She owns the world-leading mark of 8:55.58 heading into Doha and she will be desperate to finally make it on to a global championships podium.
She has shown glimpses of vulnerability, though, and was beaten by compatriot Norah Jeruto at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo. Jeruto wasn’t selected for the World Championships, but there will be several other women in Doha who have beaten Chepkoech in recent years and will be keen to do so again.
Coburn has produced lifetime bests at the past two global championships, clocking 9:07.63 to take bronze at the 2016 Olympics and 9:02.58 when winning in London two years ago. Despite falling at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stanford earlier this year, the US steeplechaser ran 9:04.90 – her fastest ever time outside of a championships. Her goal for the Qatari capital is to become the first woman to win two steeplechase world titles.
But Hyvin Kiyeng, the 2015 world champion, has the same target. She hasn’t posed a serious threat to Chepkoech so far this year, but if the race turns tactical, the diminutive Kenyan will be tough to beat in a sprint finish.
Apart from Chepkoech, world U18 and U20 champion Celliphine Chespol is the only other sub-nine-minute woman in the field. Her 8:58.78 clocking – a world U20 record – was set back in May 2017, while her fastest this year is 9:06.76 from her runner-up finish to Chepkoech at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham. She has had some other mixed results too, finishing eighth in Zurich and Stanford and sixth in Oslo.
Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi has fond recent memories of Doha’s Khalifa Stadium as it is where she won the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m at the Asian Championships earlier this year. The 19-year-old clocked a PB of 9:07.23 to finish third in Birmingham but was further down the field in all of her other IAAF Diamond League appearances this year.
Gesa Felicitas-Krause, bronze medallist in Beijing four years ago, made a big breakthrough this year, reducing her own German record to 9:07.51. The two-time European champion tends to perform better in championship-style races so could be in the medal hunt once again.
Courtney Frerichs, whose silver in London two years ago was even more of a surprise than Coburn’s gold, has had just two steeplechase competitions this year and has a season’s best of 9:09.75. But the 26-year-old, who last year broke Coburn’s North American record with 9:00.85, has set a couple of PBs on the flat this year, which suggests she is in good form.
The likes of Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai, USA’s Colleen Quigley, Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal and Ethiopia’s Mekides Abebe should all feature in final, too.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF