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Previews15 Mar 2022

Ethiopian trio targets unprecedented 3000m medal sweep in Belgrade


Selemon Barega in action at the 2018 World Indoor Championships (© Getty Images)

The men’s 3000m has offered some of the most exciting racing of this indoor season so far, with top clashes demanding the spotlight at many of the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meetings. The protagonists will now battle for medals at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.

The season started with a bang at the World Indoor Tour meeting in Karlsruhe on 28 January, when Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi solo ran 7:26.20 for the fifth-fastest indoor 3000m in history. For much of the race it had looked as though the 21-year-old was on track for his second world record in the space of a month, as he targeted Daniel Komen’s 24-year-old mark of 7:24.90. In the end the record survived another day, but such was the strength of the performance that no one has come within four seconds of that world-leading time since.

Having run 12:49 to take two seconds off the world 5km record on the roads of Barcelona on New Year’s Eve, Aregawi has more than proven his speed and now, having missed out on the 10,000m podium by one place in Tokyo, will be looking to show his major medal-winning ability.

While Karlsruhe was Aregawi’s only race of the season so far, his compatriots Selemon Barega and Lamecha Girma have not shied away from going head-to-head. Girma, the world and Olympic steeplechase silver medallist, won in Lievin and Torun to beat Barega on both occasions but the Olympic 10,000m champion turned the tables in Madrid, pipping his rival on the line.

Girma’s performance in Spain did secure him the overall World Indoor Tour title, however, and with it a wild card entry to the competition in Belgrade. As a result, Ethiopia has the chance to go for a sweep of the medals. Yomif Kejelcha and Barega – aged just 18 at the time – claimed the top two spots in Birmingham four years ago, but never before has a nation swept the medals in this event.

In Lievin last year, Barega was second in the race that saw his compatriot Getnet Wale miss the world record by just 0.08, as he clocked 7:26.10 himself for the third-quickest ever time, and Girma ran 7:27.98 in third. This year, however, they have been more focused on racing each other, rather than chasing those times.

Given the depth of the talent involved, the men’s 3000m in Belgrade could prove a highly tactical affair. Of the 35 athletes entered, 11 of them have gone sub-7:40 this year. Leading the challengers for a podium place is Spain’s Adel Mechaal, who has shown that variety is key when it comes to his own preparations. The Olympic 1500m fifth-place finisher has raced on the track, cross country and road already in 2022 and best of the lot was his European indoor 3000m record of 7:30.82 to win on Staten Island on 6 February.

Another looking to spoil Ethiopia’s party will be Kenya’s Jacob Krop, the 2019 world 5000m finalist who was third in both Karlsruhe and Torun, clocking 7:31.90 at the latter. He is joined by his compatriot Daniel Simiu, who won the 10K Valencia Ibercaja in January in 26:58 and clocked a 3000m PB of 7:37.86 in Metz.

The next 13 athletes on the entry list have all also run their best ever 3000m times this year and will be looking to maintain that momentum in Serbia. They include Geordie Beamish, who ran a New Zealand record of 7:39.50 after a well-judged race to win at the Millrose Games.

Australia’s Matthew Ramsden, who ran 7:35.65 in Gateshead last summer, makes his career indoor debut, but Andreas Almgren, who improved the Swedish record to 7:34.31 in Lievin, is a late withdrawal due to a tendon injury.

Jess Whittington for World Athletics