Going into the women’s 3000m steeplechase final, the only certainty was that there would be a new world champion as none of the five previous winners had made it to Beijing.
That remained the only certainty for 2999 metres of the race as the winner only emerged right at the end.
Although no former champions were in the final, there were two past medallists in the form of 2013 bronze medallist Sofia Assefa from Ethiopia and 2011 silver medallist Habiba Ghribi from Tunisia.
India’s Lalita Babar was the only one who wasn’t happy with the slow opening pace, so she set off on her own and left the others well behind. The 26-year-old, competing at her first World Championships, had already set a 9:27.86 national record in the heats. Babar stepped up to take control of the race at about 700m, leading clearly through 1000m in 3:09.96 with a 12-metre gap to the group. With four laps to go, the Indian had opened up a 25-metre lead, but still all the other athletes were unconcerned.
With 1200m remaining, the chase group started to eat up Babar’s lead, with a few athletes already starting to struggle with faster pace. She stayed in the lead until 2000m in 6:22.27 and was only caught with two laps to go.
USA’s Emma Coburn took the lead with 800m left, closely followed by Ghribi, the world leader with her 9:11.28 run in Monaco, and six other runners still in the search for the medals.
The same duo, Ghribi and Coburn, were still in the lead at the bell with Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause right behind in the inner lane. Ethiopia’s Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew and Kenyans Hyvin Jepkemoi and Virginia Nyambura were close too.
Ghribi took the lead with 350 metres to go. With half a lap left, Krause tried to get into second place from the inside and almost tumbled. Ghribi still led as she entered the home straight, but Krause again tried to find a way through before finally attacking from the inside. Krause found the space at the final hurdle, just as Ghribi lost her rhythm, losing ground in the process.
For a moment it seemed as though Krause would have the edge in the final sprint. Ghribi then dug in deep but then Jepkemoi powered past both of them on the outside to win in 9:19.11.
This was the first major championships medal for the 23-year-old Kenyan, who was sixth in Moscow in 2013. Ghribi clocked 9:19.24 to take her third global championships silver medal.
Krause’s bronze medal in a 9:19.25 PB was something of a surprise, although this was – despite her young age – her third World Championships final. She finished seventh in 2011 at the age of 19 and then ninth in Moscow 2013.
The 2013 bronze medallist Assefa was fourth in a season’s best of 9:20.01, Coburn was fifth in 9:21.78, six places better than she managed in 2011.
Ayalew was sixth in 9:24.27, two places lower than in Moscow, and Nyambura was seventh in 9:26.21, a solid performance at her first major championships.
Early leader Babar held on well and finished eighth in 9:29.64, her second-fastest performance following her national record in the heats.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF