Diamond League Final: Francine Niyonsaba says ‘I’m back to make sport better’

Hellen Obiri and Francine Niyonsaba
Niyonsaba (right) will hope to upset two-time reigning world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri (left) in the Diamond League final on Wednesday
Venue: Zurich Dates: 8-9 September BBC coverage (UK only): Watch on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 16:30-18:30 BST on Wednesday and 18:00-21:00 BST on Thursday

Francine Niyonsaba says she has kept competing after her enforced switch to longer distances to “make sport a better place and inspire others”.

Burundi’s Niyonsaba, 28, is one of several athletes banned from competing between 400m and 1500m because of naturally high levels of testosterone.

A world and Olympic silver medal winner over 800m, Niyonsaba is the fourth fastest women this year over 5,000m.

“I have not had an easy life and I love challenges,” she said of her switch.

“I have faced it with a lot of determination and perseverance.

“No-one was going to help me or wanted to coach me from shorter to longer distance. No one believed in me but I believed in myself.

“I can say I come back because to make sport a better place and keep inspiring others. I am very happy.”

Francine Niyonsaba, Caster Semenya and Kenya's Margaret Wambui
All the 800m medal-winners from Rio 2016 – (left to right) Francine Niyonsaba, Caster Semenya and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui – have been forced to change events by new limits on testosterone levels

Niyonsaba is one of a clutch of athletes who have been forced to change events by a 2019 ruling by governing body World Athletics. South Africa’s multiple world and Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya failed to qualify for this summer’s Olympics after her own switch to longer distance, while Namibian teenager Christine Mboma won silver over 200m in Tokyo after being forced to step down from her preferred 400m with just a few weeks notice.

Niyonsaba, who finished fifth in the 10,000m final in Tokyo and was disqualified from her 5,000m heat for a lane infringement, has been in superb late-season form.

She became the fifth-fastest woman of all time over 3,000m in Paris at the end of August and beat Kenyan world champion Hellen Obiri over 5,000m last week in Brussels.

The pair are reunited in Wednesday’s Diamond League final in Zurich in a 5,000m race that will take place on a specially-laid, irregularly shaped track that circles the Sechselautenplatz – the city’s biggest public square. Each lap of the track is about 560m and the circuit features slight banking into the turns. Times will not be recognised by World Athletics for official statistics.

As well as the men’s 5,000m race on the same circuit, the shot put, long jump and women’s high jump events will also take place on the opening night in Sechselautenplatz.

The following night’s action takes place at the Letzigrund Stadium with Dina Asher-Smith taking on Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah in a hotly anticipated 100m.

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