The most unpredictable races at the world champs, part 1

2 Aug 2017

The world champs are set to kick off in London this Friday, and the sport’s star will be out in force. Even though it’s always a treat to watch true greatness, the most compelling races are those where the outcome is in doubt. Below we rank each of the ten women’s individual track events in terms of predictability—based on the odds from the bookmakers—from the free-for-alls to the foregone conclusions.

% Win probabilities: women’s least to most “predictable” races

Aggregated odds from Paddy Power, Bwin and Skybet on 1 August

1. Women’s 1500m

Final: Monday, 7 August
Favourite: Sifan Hassan (39%)

Consider this recipe for a fantastic race: start with the world record holder (Genzebe Dibaba) and Olympic champion (Faith Kipyegon). Then mix in the world leader and pre-race favorite Hassan, a bronze medalist in 2015 who has reached a new level since joining up with coach Alberto Salazar. Now throw in the wild card of 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya racing the 1500m outside of Africa for the first time since 2011. Finally, add a dash of home medal hopefuls Laura Muir and Laura Weightman, and you have the most exciting race of the meet.

2. Women’s 5000m

Final: Sunday, 13 August
Favourite: Hellen Obiri (40%)

This event will feature the 25-year-old world record holder at 10,000m matching up with the 26-year-old world record holder at 1500m. Such a tantalizing match-up should be one of the highlights of the championships. However, Almaz Ayana has yet to race in 2017 and Genzebe Dibaba only finished sixth in her most recent 5000m. The winner of that race, Hellen Obiri, has been on fire this year and should be a heavy favourite. The bookmakers seem to have some reservations about that, though.

3. Women’s 3000m steeplechase

Final: Friday, 11 August
Favourite: Beatrice Chepkoech (42%)

The world leader is teenager Celliphine Chepteek Chepsol, who edged out Chepkoech at the Kenyan trials. The tables turned a week later in Paris, though, as Chepkoech won handily with Chepsol back in third. Finishing fourth was Olympic champion and world record holder Ruth Jebet. Those three will likely be your medalists, but the order is far from guaranteed.

4. Women’s 400m

Final: Wednesday, 9 August
Favourite: Shaunae Miller-Uibo (52%)

Defending world champion Allyson Felix takes on defending Olympic champion Miller-Uibo. That duo will finish 1-2 for the third time in as many years—the only question is who gets gold and who gets silver.

5. Women’s 400m hurdles

Final: Thursday, 10 August
Favourite: Dalilah Muhammad (55%)

Olympic champion Muhammad appeared to be rounding into form right on time when she clocked a world-leading time at the US championships, but a DNF and a sixth-place finish in her last two races raise some red flags. If she slips up, compatriots Shamier Little and Kori Carter will hope to capitalise, while anyone who makes the final should be considered a threat.

6. Women’s 200m

Final: Friday, 11 August
Favourite: Dafne Schippers (59%)

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson is solely focused on the 100m this year, but in her absence there are three other decorated sprinters vying to add a gold medal to their collections. Olympic bronze medalist Tori Bowie set the world lead in June at the Prefontaine Classic, where she defeated Thomspon, silver medalist Schippers, and Olympic 400m gold medalist Shaunae Miller-Ubido. However, Bowie underwhelmed at the US championships and almost missed making the 200m team entirely. As a result, Schippers has become the favourite, at least until the first two rounds are in the books.

7. Women’s 10,000m

Final: Saturday, 5 August
Favourite: Almaz Ayana (63%)

Tirunesh Dibaba returns to the track for the first time since her third place finish in the Olympic 10,000m, and though the betting odds suggest otherwise, she should be considered the favourite after an excellent year on the roads. World record holder Ayana has also been off the track since last summer, but her hiatus has been due to injury.

8. Women’s 100m hurdles

Final: Saturday, 12 August
Favourite: Kendra Harrison (82%)

World record holder Kendra Harrison is the huge favourite, but weird things have been known to happen in the shortest hurdle race. For proof, look no further than Harrison’s failure to qualify for the Olympics last year.

9. Women’s 800m

Final: Sunday, 13 August
Favourite: Caster Semenya (85%)

In Monaco, Semenya received her first real challenge in two years. Though she finished strongly enough to secure yet another victory, will Semenya have that same strength after (potentially) six races in ten days?

10. Women’s 100m

Final: Sunday, 6 August
Favourite: Elaine Thompson (87%)

Thompson hasn’t lost a 100m final since May 2015 and has the world lead by over a tenth of a second. There should be no surprises here.


Note that the favourites and accompanying percentages were calculated using an average of betting odds on PaddyPower, Bwin, and Skybet as of 1 August. Obviously bookmakers don’t want you to make money, so the odds for the favourites are inflated somewhat (for example on one site the combined winning probability for three athletes in the women’s 200m exceeds 100%). This inflation is reflected in the numbers above. The actual predicted win probability by those bookmakers is therefore a bit lower.


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