Rababe Arafi at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Sopot 2014 (© Getty Images)
Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi showed just why she is one of the most prohibitive favourites for a gold medal in Sopot when she ran away from the rest of the runners halfway through her 1500m heat and clocked the fastest time of the evening in 4:08.74.
Taking the second heat with ease, the newly-minted European indoor record-holder was more than two seconds quicker than the next fastest woman from the other heats, Morocco’s Rababe Arafi, who had a few minutes earlier won the first heat in 4:10.95.
The women immediately behind Aregawi had reason to be grateful for acting as the hare.
Ethiopian teenager Axumawit Embaye took the second automatic spot in Saturday’s final with 4:09.46 and, in a battle down the home straight, Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes, Morocco’s Siham Hilali and Svetlana Karamasheva followed the leading pair home in that order to qualify for the final.
In contrast to Aregawi, Arafi only took the lead 40 metres from the line, the USA’s Heather Kampf having led from the gun until just after the last bend.
Nevertheless, Kampf, a late addition to the US team, hung on to finish second and was rewarded not only with an indoor personal best of 4:11.25 but also with an unexpected place in the final.
In the third and final heat, Albania’s Luiza Gega made the pace until the USA’s Treniere Moser swung past her 30 metres from the bell, the latter winning in 4:12.63 in the slowest of the three races as Gega came home behind her to become the first ever Albanian finalist at the World Indoor Championships.
Trailing in sixth and last in this race was Turkey's London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Gamze Bulut , who set a national record of 4:07.94 on home soil in Istanbul last month but was more than 15 seconds outside that time on this occasion.
, who set a national record of 4:07.94 on home soil in Istanbul last month but was more than 15 seconds outside that time on this occasion.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF