When confidence and trust join forces above 1500m

Kipyegan has already cemented her legacy as the best female runner in metric mile history. If she fulfills the rest of her ambitions, she will figure prominently in the conversation about the greatest athletes of all time

Kipyegan has already cemented her legacy as the best female runner in metric mile history. If she fulfills the rest of her ambitions, she will figure prominently in the conversation about the greatest athletes of all time

If there was any dispute about Faith Kipyegan being named the greatest women’s 1500m runner of all time, her performances over the past two months should have banished it.

No woman has won two Olympic and two world titles over that distance before July 2022. But Kipyegan – the Olympic champion in Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021, as well as the world champion in London in 2017 – mastered the competition in Eugene, Oregon to make history.

Siphan Hasan – the only woman to beat Kenya over 1500m since the start of 2017 – is still a strong field, although she has stopped focusing on the distance double (5000m-10,000m). Kipyegan finished in an impressive time of 3:52.96 to reclaim her world crown.

“I’m under a lot of pressure,” Kipyegan said after winning her fourth major gold. “Everybody expected something special from me. Everyone’s like, ‘Faith, we believe in faith,’ so it’s a real pressure. But I managed it. This is my big goal. I am really looking forward to this championship. I’m really ready for this race.

World record attempt

As if that wasn’t enough, the 28-year-old traveled to Monaco last month for the Diamond League and threatened the world record; She was only three-tenths of a second off.

With two three-minute, 52-second runs in 2022, Kipyegan was instrumental in an assault on Zenzeb Dibaba’s world record of 3:50.07, set in 2015 at the same venue: Stade Louis II. The 5’2” runner narrowly missed out, stopping the watch at 3:50.37, but left the impression that establishing a new mark was a matter of when, not when.

“I’m still chasing [the record] A long time, but I’m happy with a personal best,” Kipyegan told organizers in Monaco. “It seems that I did not give [it my] All, but I tried hard. I knew this was the best place to get the world record, but I was very disappointed to lose it in the last meters. I hope for better next time. “

Although she doesn’t have a world record – yet – there’s no doubting Kipyegan’s dominance in the marquee middle distance event.

The sheer constancy of her radiance is staggering. She is the only woman in history to run eight 1500m races under 3:55.0. She has six of the 13 fastest times, including two in the top five (second and fifth).

Because of Dibaba

And while Kipyegan may not have bettered Dibaba’s best time, she has the measure of her Ethiopian rival when they go head-to-head on the biggest stage of all: the Olympics.

Dibaba beat a raw, 21-year-old Kipyegan at the 2015 Worlds. She is the favorite for the 2016 Games, experts argue that the 25-year-old has the pedigree and experience.

But Kipyegan had other ideas. She sat in a pack that virtually jogged the early stages before she and Dibaba cleared around the halfway mark. Dibaba went into the lead by 200 runs, but her lesser rival wreaked havoc, leaving the world record holder trailing behind her. Kipyegon won 4:08.92, beating Dibaba (4:10.27).

“It was an amazing race,” Kipyegan said after her first Olympic gold. “I had to focus in the middle because I knew Genjeb was very fast and I had to kick in the last lap.”

It was young Kenya’s breakout moment on the world stage, a harbinger of things to come. In 2017, she added the world title to her Olympic crown with a thrilling victory in a spectacular last-lap race. Kipyegan clocked 4:02.59 to hold off everyone in the home straight (including Caster Semenya, who was chasing an 800m-1500m double).

Inspiring young mothers

But the gold medal wasn’t the most impressive of Kipyegan’s runs on the big stage. At the 2019 Worlds in Doha, she won silver in her first major event after a 21-month maternity break. “I came back after giving birth and I feel like a role model for young mothers and young athletes out there,” she told World Athletics. “I hope to show them that when you go on maternity leave, it’s not the end of your career. You can come back stronger.”

Since then Kipyegon has only grown from strength to strength. Last year in Tokyo, she retained her Olympic crown in 3:53.11, breaking a Games record that had stood for 33 years. She became the second woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles in the metric mile after Tatyana Kazankina (1976 and 1980).

Kipyegan said after the race that knowing his daughter would be watching during the final 200m spurred him on. “I knew I had to do something for her,” she said after the win.

In fact, her daughter Aline, born in 2018, is a strong inspiration for Kipyegan. “The biggest change she made in my life was in my mindset,” Kipyegon wrote in Spikes magazine, describing her journey to competitive running after giving birth. “She has inspired me in my career to give her the education and other things she needs in the future. She made me want to work harder.

Coming full circle

Life seems to have come full circle for Kipyegan in terms of inspiration. Growing up on a farm in Kenya’s Rift Valley, running was an ever-present theme: her father, Samuel Koch, was a nationally accomplished athlete. “My father was a good 800m and 1500m runner, but unfortunately, he never got on a plane. He would only win his races up to nationals and go back home because we don’t have big competitions these days,” Kipyegan said.

She and older sister Beatrice Mutai (a 10km and half-marathon athlete) flew in to get a taste of international competition. In fact, in her early days of touring the world, Kipyegan ran barefoot in cross country championships.

She has come a long way since then and is now surrounded by some of the best distance runners at the famous Kaptagat training camp in Kenya’s Eldoret region under respected athletics coach Patrick Song. Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all time, is a training partner.

Like Kipchog, Kipyegon was a legend during her athletic career. And she’s not done yet. She still has hopes in the 1500m but is also looking for a new running challenge. “For now, I am looking forward to the 2024 Olympics [in Paris]I want to protect myself [1500m] The title will probably change to 5000m,” she said in an interview with Olympic Channel.

A third Olympic title would be an astonishing feat – and the 1500m world record would put her at the top of conversations about the greatest athletes of all time. Given her talent and enthusiasm, don’t be surprised if she continues to add to her already creaking medal cabinet and then buys another storage unit for the medals she wants to win in the 5000m.

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