© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

Winnipeg’s Nicole Sifuentes gave it her all today in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 1500-metre semi-final race, but did not qualify for the final. It was a stacked heat and included unearthly world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, who ran the final lap in approximately 57-seconds after a pedestrian first 800-metres.

Dibaba started the race near the back of the field, keeping herself clear of any potential bumping, tripping or from getting boxed in. She worked her way through the field and during the final 400-metres, unleashed her powerful kick to finish in 4:03.06.

Dibaba owns the 1500-metre world record which she set in July of 2015, taking down what has long been considered a doped run, by Chinese athlete Qu Yunxia in 1993, who was coached by the disgraced Ma Junren. Junren was banned from coaching when several of his athletes tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. His group took on the name of Ma’s Army due to his claim that his athletes were taking turtle’s blood and other unusual products – all which turned out to be lies.

This spring, in Spain, Jama Aden was arrested and his hotel room was raided by Spanish police. Drugs were found and 20 of the apparent 22 athletes that were at the hotel were also tested on the spot. Magically all athletes tested negative.

Aden is Dibaba’s coach.

Twelve of the top-16 athletes all-time in the 1500-metres were either part of Ma’s Army, or were Russian, which has been proven to operate a systematic doping operation, which found them banned from the Rio Olympics.

The top-five from the two heats, plus the next two fastest athletes from those two heats qualify for the final. The top-five from Sifuentes’s heat ran as follows:

Genzebe Dibaba – Ethiopia – 4:03.06
Sifan Hassan – Netherlands – 4:03.62
Laura Muir – Great Britain – 4:04.16
Jennifer Simpson –  United States – 4:05.07
Meraf Bahta – Sweden – 4:06.41

Three Canadians qualified for the games including veteran Hilary Stellingwerff of Victoria, who was famously cheated out of a chance to compete in the finals of the 2012 London Olympics Games as many of her competitors tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, in fact, exactly half of the final have all since tested positive. The up-and-coming Gabriela Stafford of Toronto was the other Canadian qualifier for the 1500m.