19 December, 2019

Doha Diamond: Hellen Obiri

London is Hellen Obiri’s happy place and an expertly-timed victory at her ‘favourite track’ paved the way for the Kenyan star to retain her 5000m world title in Doha.

Obiri’s season was a rollercoaster ride but this year’s Muller Anniversary Games crowd was treated to the 30-year-old at her imperious best, and she would rule the world a matter of months later.

We’re throwing it back to July as part of our ongoing series, #DohaDiamonds, spotlighting those who lorded it over London and then did the business in Doha.

London calling

Few athletes have a finer record in London than Obiri, who shares an agent with Dina Asher-Smith and Usain Bolt.

She won her first major outdoor title at the 2017 World Championships, blasting past Sifan Hassan to scoop one of Kenya’s five gold medals and bask in the adulation of a track-mad nation.

Obiri found the Muller Anniversary Games perfect preparation that year, breaking the national record for the mile with 4:16.56 just four weeks before she stepped onto the startline for the showpiece.

And she relished the role of party pooper, kicking hard on the final bend to deny Laura Muir victory in front of a home crowd. 

“I was very confident going into that race,” she reflected at the time. “It was important to come and do well in a Diamond League meeting – the London track and the crowd are fantastic.”

Don't Fawcett

The long-distance queen was back for another tilt at the Anniversary Games the following year, and she delivered another record-breaking performance.

Obiri lowered the national record she broke in 2017, clocking 4:16.15 to finish third behind Gudaf Tsegay and Hassan in the inaugural Millicent Fawcett Mile.

The Rio Olympic silver medallist was just a couple of strides behind Hassan at the bell but the Dutch star held her own on the final lap to take glory on that occasion.

Muller magic

When presented with the challenge of retaining her 5000m gold in Doha, Obiri once again chose the Anniversary Games as the platform to launch her bid for top step on the biggest stage.

It was a field loaded with seven of her compatriots and featuring Hassan, Letsenbet Gidey, Agnes Tirop and Margaret Kipkemboi, who would all go on to finish on the podium in Doha.

Obiri never led the race, sitting at the front of the pack, as Hassan went to open up a decisive lead a long way from home.

The 26-year-old simply couldn’t deal with Obiri’s late burst, the Kenyan kicking fiercely from the back straight bend onwards. She went through the last 200m in 30.56 to take a seminal success.

“I am so happy because London is my favourite track and I have done my best and I ran the way I wanted to,” she said moments after the event. 

“In the last lap I was thinking, work hard and I said to myself when I went past Hassan: 'let me go and see if you can catch me'.

“I have been training well and this will help when I defend my title in Doha."

Conquering the world

Obiri’s race was all the more impressive given what followed it.

Hassan looked unbeatable in Doha, opting for the 1500m and 10,000m and proving peerless in both on the way to a never-before-seen double. 

And while Obiri’s own triumph contrasted to the one she pulled off in London – she frontran in Doha to break the Championship record – it was a similarly clinical execution of race strategy. 

You can see Olympic champions before they’re crowned at next year’s Anniversary Games, the meet forming the perfect send-off for the British team before they head to Tokyo. 

Tickets are now available for both days of the IAAF Diamond League meet HERE