Berihu Aregawi and Faith Kipyegon in action in Oregon (© Getty Images)
The men’s 5000m at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 will see an intense struggle for supremacy. Norway’s Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who earned a first world title at this distance in Oregon last year after suffering the shock of being beaten to gold in the metric mile by Britain’s Jake Wightman, is in ominously good form as he plans his defence but he is up against some strong challengers.
After marking his recovery from a viral illness by winning the European indoor 1500m and 3000m titles in Istanbul, Ingebrigtsen has been an unstoppable force over 1500m this year, improving his European record to 3:27.14 at last month’s Silesia Diamond League meeting.
While Ingebrigtsen has not run a 5000m this season, he looks ready to improve on the European record of 12:48.45 he set in Florence two years ago. Despite his relative youth, he is already a seasoned championship runner at the distance, having also won two European titles.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen celebrates his 5000m win at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
Uganda's Olympic champion Joshua Cheptegei, who set the world record of 12:35:36 in Monaco three years ago, represents the most monumental of challengers, albeit that he could only finish ninth in Oregon last year.
Cheptegei, who retained his world title over 10,000m at Hayward Field, is currently second fastest in the world this season with 12:41.61 set at the Lausanne Diamond League meeting.
But a more imminent threat to the 22-year-old Norwegian could be Ethiopia’s 22-year-old Berihu Aregawi, who beat Cheptegei into second place in Switzerland with a time of 12:40.45. That's the fastest performance in the world this year and a mark that puts Aregawi fifth on the world all-time list.
Or indeed Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia, who beat Uganda’s Jakob Kiplimo after an extraordinary finish in the Oslo Diamond League meeting, where both athletes were given the same time of 12:41.73. Kiplimo would also have been a contender, but he has withdrawn through injury.
Two other Ethiopian talents will be part of the reckoning. Hagos Gebrhiwet and Telahun Bekele have run 12:42.18 and 12:42.70 respectively this year.
Also in the medal mix will be Spain’s Mohamed Katir, who has run 12:45.01 this year and will stalk Ingebrigtsen both at this distance and over 1500m.
Speaking ahead of the World Championships in Budapest, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe made it clear what he is expecting of the event: “Quality, quality, quality.” In a hugely strong field, no race looks more likely to provide that than the women’s 5000m, which contains six of the 10 fastest women of all time, including the current and previous world record-holders.
If there has to be a favourite among this most dazzling collection of stellar runners it must be Kenya’s two-time world and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon, who has set three world records this season in the 1500m, 5000m and mile.
Having become the first woman to better 3:50 for the metric mile in clocking 3:49.11 at the Florence Diamond League meeting on 2 June, the 29-year-old mother moved into new territory in Paris just a week later.
In her first race over 5000m since 2015, she produced a final 200m time of 28.1 to see off the lingering challenge of Ethiopia’s world record-holder Letesenbet Gidey and improve her rival’s world record to 14:05.20. That took 1.42 seconds off the mark Gidey had set in Valencia on 7 October 2020.
The Ethiopian’s time in the Stade Charlety was also spectacular - 14:07.94, putting her second on this year’s world list behind the phenomenal Kenyan, who set a mile record of 4:07.64 in Monaco 12 days later.
Letesenbet Gidey at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
If Kipyegon can maintain such stupendous form then a first global gold at this distance could be hers. But she will need to be at the peak of her powers to resist a field of staggering talent.
Aside from Gidey, who will also defend her world 10,000m title in Budapest, the race contains one of the most prolific gatherers of major distance titles in recent years, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, whose versatility knows no bounds.
After winning the world 1500m and 10,000m titles in Doha three years ago, Hassan secured a golden double in the 5000m and 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics.
Following a relatively subdued year in 2022, she sprang back to the top of the athletics agenda in April as she ran her first marathon, in London - and, after looking as if she was on the verge of dropping out, swiftly caught up with a lead group that included Ethiopia’s defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw and earned a victory that seemed to shock her more than anyone.
Hassan had maintained before the race that, despite her move up, she would be concentrating on track events in Budapest and this she is doing, having entered the 10,000m, 5000m and also the 1500m. You wouldn’t bet against her winning this race, despite the fact that her personal best of 14:13.42 was set only last month at the London Diamond League, moving her to ninth on the all-time list.
But apart from Kipyegon and Gidey, there will be three other athletes who have run the event faster than Hassan has and will be involved in the Budapest mix.
They are the two athletes who finished ahead of her in London – Gudaf Tsegay, who clocked 14:12.29 and will defend the title she won in Oregon last year, and Beatrice Chebet, second in 14:12.92, who took world silver behind Tsegay by a margin of just 0.46.
Tsegay was a 1500m specialist for several years but more recently she has established herself as one of the most versatile runners in the world, clocking PBs of 1:57.52 for 800m indoors and 29:29.73 for 10,000m. She is undefeated this year across five different distances, and has set PBs for the indoor mile, indoor 3000m and outdoor 5000m, the latter with her victory in London.
Chebet, meanwhile, has proven herself to be a formidable championship performer. Last year she won the African, Commonwealth and Diamond League titles, and took world silver behind Tsegay. Earlier this year she won the senior women's race at the World Cross Country Championships in impressive fashion, passing a fading Gidey in the closing stages.
Also involved is 23-year-old Ethiopian Ejgayehu Taye, who finished third behind Kipyegon and Gidey in Paris in 14:13.31 and stands fifth on the all-time list thanks to her 2022 clocking of 14:12.98.
Medina Eisa of Ethiopia and Alicia Monson of the United States, who finished fourth and fifth behind Hassan in the London Stadium in 14:16.54 and 14:19.45 respectively, thus moved to 12th and 14th on the all-time list.
Also in the field will be three other athletes inside the all-time top 20 who took fourth, fifth and sixth place in the world record race in Paris: Kenya’s Lilian Rengeruk, who ran 14:23.05, Ethiopia’s Freweyni Hailu, who clocked 14:23.45, and Kenya’s 2019 world silver medallist Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, who recorded 14:23.67.
Has there ever, in the history of athletics, been such a field assembled?
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics