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Previews15 Mar 2022

1500m favourite Tsegay sets sights on first global title in Belgrade


Gudaf Tsegay in action at the World Indoor Championships (© Getty Images)

The past six winners of the women’s world indoor 1500m title have all either been Ethiopian or Ethiopian-born: Genzebe Dibaba (2018 and 2012), naturalised Netherlander Sifan Hissan (2016) and Swede Abeba Aregawi (2014), Kalkidan Gezahegne (2010) and Gelete Burka (2008). The sequence is unlikely to be broken in Belgrade.

In physical terms, Gudaf Tsegay might be only 1.63m (5ft 4in) tall but metaphorically the 25-year-old stands head and shoulders above the rest of the 22-strong entry list. In February last year she relieved Dibaba of the world indoor record with her sensational 3:53.09 run in Lievin and, 13 months on, the form book suggests that the clear world leader will succeed her compatriot as world indoor champion.

Tsegay ran a scorching 3:54.77 in Torun on 22 February, the second fastest in history, and 3:57.38 in Madrid on 2 March. Nobody else has cracked four minutes indoors in 2022. The next quickest is also Ethiopian. Axumawit Embaye, who won in Karlsruhe in 4:02.12, finished second to Aregawi in Sopot in 2014 and fourth in Portland in 2016 – behind Hassan and Ethiopian team-mates Dawit Seyaum and Tsegay.

Tsegay has won all nine races she has contested at all distances in the past three indoor seasons. Her last indoor defeat dates back to 8 February 2019, when she finished fourth over 3000m in Madrid.

She has not lost a 1500m race indoors or outdoors since the 2019 World Championships final in Doha, when she finished third behind Hassan and Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon. Her last indoor defeat at the distance was on 10 February 2018, when she placed third at the World Indoor Tour event in Boston.

Even when she fell on the opening lap of the mile race at this year’s Lievin meeting in February, she picked herself up, resisted a mid-race challenge from Embaye, and  proceeded to win comfortably in 4:21.72, breaking the 20-year-old meeting record.

Tsegay is on a run of three global bronzes, having finished third in the 2016 world indoor 1500m final, the 2019 world outdoor final in Doha and in the 5000m final at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Barring unforeseen disaster, the 2014 world U20 silver medallist’s long pursuit of a Midas touch seems destined to finally meet with a golden global success in Belgrade.

Heather Maclean could be a danger in a tactical affair, having gone from fifth to first with a 29.71-second last lap at the US Indoor Championships. Josette Norris, who finished second in that race, has also displayed great form this year.

Other potential podium placers include Ethiopia’s 2019 African Games 800m champion Hirut Meshesha, who was second in Karlsruhe in 4:02.22, and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo. Fourth in the 800m at the 2019 World Championships, Nanyondo improved her Ugandan indoor 1500m record to 4:03.54 in Torun.

Simon Turnbull for World Athletics