Russia's Yuliya Zaripova (© Getty Images)
NOTE: This preview was written and published before the withdrawal of Zaripova was announced on Friday 9 August.
Of the six Russian athletes who will defend their World titles in Moscow, Yuliya Zaripova is one of the host nation’s biggest hopes of winning a second successive gold medal.
The day after the women’s 3000m Steeplechase final in Moscow will mark three years since Zaripova’s last defeat in her specialist event. The World and Olympic champion will not want her winning streak to end, especially in front of a home crowd.
The 27-year-old is in great shape too. Her only race over the barriers this year came when winning the World University Games title in Kazan, clocking 9:28.00, but it’s her performances in other events that give a true indication of her form.
In May, she set a best of 15:38.1 over 5000m; and at the end of July she won the Russian 1500m title by a significant margin, beating many of the country’s specialists in the event.
Should Zaripova take the gold in Moscow, she will become the first athlete in the relatively short history of the women’s Steeplechase to win two gold medals in the event at the IAAF World Championships.
The championship record of 9:06.57, set by compatriot Yekaterina Volkova in 2007, could well be within Zaripova’s sights. And if the pace is right, then perhaps even the World record of 8:58.81 could come under threat.
Zaripova will be joined by three other Russian athletes in this event, the best of which is Natalya Aristarkhova. The 23-year-old has won all of her Steeplechase races this year, taking victories at the European Team Championships and the Russian Championships.
African record-holder Milcah Chemos was the last woman to beat Zaripova. The Kenyan heads to Moscow with a winning streak of her own, having won her past five races, including IAAF Diamond League wins in Rome, Birmingham and Monaco.
She clocked a season’s best of 9:14.17 in the most recent of those victories, putting her second on this year’s world list. The world leader, fellow Kenyan Lydia Chepkurui, will also be in Moscow but after winning her first two Diamond League races of 2013, Chepkurui has not won an international race since.
Surprisingly, Ethiopia is yet to win a medal in this event at the World Championships. A full-strength team of Sofia Assefa, Hiwot Ayalew and Etenesh Diro will want to rectify that.
Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi, the reigning World and Olympic silver medallist, will not be in Moscow after undergoing surgery to rectify a knee injury.
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Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF