RISING TO THE MOMENT, KIPYEGON WINS THIRD WORLD 1500M TITLE
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
BUDAPEST (22 Aug) — On a very warm night and in front of a roaring crowd at the National Athletics Center here, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon blasted the final lap of the women’s 1500m final in 56.6 seconds to take her third world title in 3:54.87. Kipyegon, 29, who also won two consecutive Olympic 1500m titles in 2016 and 2021 and is also the world record holder, can now claim to be the best women’s miler in history. She dominated tonight’s final, taking the lead right from the beginning and never relinquishing it.
Faith Kipyegon, exhausted and exhilerated, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
“That was my expectation as world record holder and defending champion,” Kipyegon told a small group of reporters in a noisy and crowded mixed zone with her gold medal around her neck. “If you go to the front, control the race, and run your race. So, I run my race.”
Kipyegon not only showed her speed tonight but also her mastery of tactics. She sprinted down the backstretch right from the gun to jolt the field, but as she hit the bend, she eased off the pace. Firmly in front, she took the field through 400m in a not-too-fast 1:05.2. She was followed closely by most of her top rivals: Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji, Britain’s Laura Muir, and Ireland’s Ciara Mageean. Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan –who is tripling here in the 1500m, 5000m, and 10,000m– chose to hang back, her usual tactic.
Kipyegon continued to lead through 800m (2:11.8) and kept the pace steady through the bell. She then accelerated, gaining steam like a tiny freight train down the backstretch. Welteji gave chase and kept it close, while Hassan shot ahead from the pack and moved into third place. The finish order did not change down the homestretch, with Kipyegon holding the lead and Hassan unable to catch Welteji. Welteji was timed in 3:55.69 to Hassan’s 3:56.00.
“It was not easy,” Kipyegon continued. “It’s all about executing as much as I can to defend my title, and I am so grateful.”
Hassan, who finished 11th in the 10,000m after falling in the final 20 meters, now must prepare for the first round of the 5000m tomorrow night when she will again face Kipyegon (both women are in the second of two heats). She was in good spirits after her race tonight, joking with reporters.
“What is my plan?” Hassan asked rhetorically, repeating a reporter’s question about the 5000m. “To get from Kenya the gold medal.”
Mageean finished a strong fourth in 3:56.61, setting an Irish record, and Kipyegon’s Kenyan teammate, Nelly Chepchirchir, was fifth in a personal best 3:57.90. Muir, the reigning European champion, finished sixth in 3:58.58. The lone American in the final, Cory McGee, finished tenth.
EL BAKKALI REPEATS AS STEEPLECHASE CHAMPION
The men’s steeplechase final was also contested tonight and featured a dream match-up between the defending world champion, Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, and the world record holder, Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia. El Bakkali, who is also the reigning Olympic champion, ran a smart race, staying slightly back from the lead and saving his energy. When Girma went to the lead with 5:45 showing on the clock, El Bakkali stayed close behind, waiting for the right moment to strike. That moment came about 50 meters before the final water jump when the tall and lanky Moroccan made a powerful surge that Girma could not match. He romped to victory in 8:03.53, comfortably ahead of Girma (8:05.44). It was Girma’s third consecutive silver medal at a World Athletics Championships (he was also the 2021 Olympic silver medalist).
“After winning in Eugene last year, I am really proud that I am bringing home another gold,” El Bakkali told the flash quotes team after his race. “I had great preparations for these championships, but today’s field was very strong with athletes like Lamecha. I came ready and prepared, and I believed I could win.”
Soufiane El Bakkali, in the heats, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary, photo by Kevin Morris
August 19-27, 2023
Bronze went to Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot, despite taking a fall at the first barrier of the bell lap. He quickly got to his feet and was caught by teammate Leonard Bett. The two ran the final lap together, but Kibiwot just managed to hold off his compatriot in the homestretch, 8:11.98 to 8:12.26, to get the bronze.
“When Leonard Kipkemoi Bett managed to pass through me (after the fall), there was no question I would make it and finish on the podium,” Kibiwot told the flash quotes team. “These times, there are no tiredness. I feel so great; this is even more than happiness.”
New Zealand’s Geordie Beamish rounded out the top-5, running 8:13.46 in his first global final in the steeplechase (he only started to run the event this year). The top American was national champion Kenneth Rooks, who finished tenth.