This is a total geekdom post! World Athletics sends us media alerts, and I thought you might enjoy seeing all the geek stuff celebrating Faith Kipyegon and Lamecha Girma.
It will go down in history as one of the greatest nights in athletics.
Faith Kipyegon and Lamecha Girma set world records* in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase, respectively at the Meeting de Paris on Friday (9), providing the standout moments at a highly memorable Wanda Diamond League meeting in the French capital.
A week after breaking the 1500m world record in Florence, Kipyegon etched her name into the record books for 5000m, winning in 14:05.20.
The world and Olympic champion hadn’t made too much noise about a possible world record attempt ahead of the race. It was, after all, just her third-ever race at the distance and her first 5000m outing in eight years.
But, as is always the case with Kipyegon, the 29-year-old Kenyan showed no fear as she navigated her way through the race, passing 3000m in 8:32.1 tucked behind world record-holder Letesenbet Gidey.
Kipyegon took the lead with about 600 metres to go, but Gidey kept close contact. Kipyegon – now speeding up with each and every stride – hit the bell in 13:04.1, needing a final lap of about 62 seconds to break Gidey’s record. She did exactly that, covering the last 400m in 61.1 seconds to cross the line in 14:05.20 – a 1.42-second improvement on Gidey’s mark.
Gidey, competing for the first time since her unfortunate episode at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, finished second in 14:07.94, the third-fastest time in history.
“I didn’t think about the world record, I don’t know how I made it,” said a delighted and surprised Kipyegon. “I just focused on the green light and tried to stay relaxed and enjoy the race. When I saw that it was a world record, I was so surprised – I just wanted to improve on my PB; the world record was not my plan.”
Girma had requested an ambitious pace for the men’s 3000m steeplechase – one that would result in a finishing time of about 7:52. The world and Olympic silver medallist almost got a bit carried away mid-race, though, and ran well ahead of the pacing lights through the middle section of the race.
Lamecha Girma, WR photo by Marta Gorczynska, Diamong League AG for Diamond League
With two laps to go, the lights almost caught up with the Ethiopian – who was well ahead of the rest of the field by now. But the sound of the bell and the reaction of the crowd seemingly gave him added impetus on the final lap as he moved clear of the lights once more.
He sped around the final lap in about 64 seconds, crossing the line in 7:52.11, taking 1.52 seconds off the world record set 19 years ago by Said Saeed Shaheen.
“I feel so happy,” said Girma, who started his year with a world indoor record over 3000m. “I’m happy and very proud. I felt so fast during the race, so confident. The world record is not a surprise; it was my plan to beat it tonight in Paris. It’s the result of my full determination.”
Jakob Ingebrigtsen had set the tone for the evening before the main programme got underway. The world and Olympic champion set a world best in the rarely-contested two miles, winning in 7:54.10.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure
Report: Kipyegon, Girma and Ingebrigtsen make history in Paris
Video: Kipyegon breaks world 5000m record in Paris
Video: Girma breaks world steeplechase record in Paris
Mixed zone interview: Faith Kipyegon
Born: 10 January 1994. Coach: Patrick Sang
A world record was considered the only thing missing from Faith Kipyegon’s hugely decorated 1500m CV. A two-time Olympic and two-time world champion, the 29-year-old has been winning major titles since the age of 17 and her honours list has been growing steadily ever since.
Born in Bomet on 10 January 1994, Kipyegon grew up as the eighth of nine children on a farm in the Kenyan Rift Valley. Her first sport was football but that all changed when she was introduced to athletics at school aged 14, when her PE teacher asked the class to run a 1km and she won by 20 metres. Kipyegon has athletics in her blood, too, with her elder sister Beatrice Mutai and her father Samuel Koech also both runners.
Kipyegon’s first international event was the 2010 World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, where at the age of 16 and running barefoot she finished fourth in the U20 race and formed part of Kenya’s gold medal-winning team.
Her individual gold medal success started just one year later, when she progressed to the top of the U20 podium at the World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, again racing barefoot. And Kipyegon won another world title just a few months later, claiming world U18 gold in what has become her specialism – the 1500m – in a championship record of 4:09.48 in Lille.
It was a victory that gave her belief.
“I wasn’t expecting to win,” she said. “I was my first time in Europe for a track race. Winning that title gave me lots of confidence.”
Her 2012 season started with a bang as she set a national U20 1500m record of 4:03.82 in Shanghai. She followed it up by taking the national U20 title to book her ticket for the World U20 Championships in Barcelona, then further illustrated her huge potential by finishing third at the Kenyan Olympic Trials to secure a spot on the national team for the London 2012 Games.
Kipyegon went into the World U20 Championships hoping and expecting to pick up gold and she duly delivered, setting another championship record of 4:04.96 to win by more than two-and-a-half seconds. She then made her Olympic debut in London, finishing sixth in her 1500m heat at the age of 18.
In 2013 Kipyegon retained her world U20 cross country title in Bydgoszcz, this time wearing spikes, and then, in her first 1500m of the season, she set an outstanding national record and African U20 record of 3:56.98 in Doha. She went on to finish fifth in the 1500m at her first senior World Athletics Championships in Moscow later that year.
In 2014 she secured the Commonwealth 1500m title in Glasgow and featured in the world record-breaking Kenyan 4x1500m team at the World Athletics Relays in The Bahamas. Then, in 2015, she claimed her first global senior individual track medal with silver at the World Championships in Beijing, finishing behind the then world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba.
Further national records followed in 2016 as Kipyegon ran 3:56.82 in Shanghai and 3:56.41 in Eugene. She headed to her second Olympic Games as one of the favourites and she turned the tables on Dibaba in Rio to gain her first Olympic gold.
In 2017 the Olympic champion became world champion – Kipyegon getting her first senior world track title in London. After ending her 2017 season by beating Sifan Hassan to the Diamond League 1500m title in Brussels, Kipyegon decided that she was ready to start a family with her husband Timothy Kitum, the 2012 Olympic 800m bronze medallist. “It was always my plan to have a baby in 2018 and take a break from the sport,” she explained.
They welcomed their daughter Alyn in June 2018.
“She has changed my life a lot,” said Kipyegon. “Her birth was a really great moment and I have enjoyed being a mum. She acts as an extra motivation for me.”
It also led to a change in coaching set up, as Kipyegon relocated from Keringet to Eldoret. Previously guided by Bram Som, the 2006 European 800m champion, Kipyegon joined Patrick Sang, the prominent coach of world marathon record-holder Eliud Kipchoge.
She made her return to competition in June 2019 and won the 1500m at the Diamond League meeting in Stanford in 3:59.04. It was a sign that things were on track ahead of the World Championships in Doha and once there she secured silver in another Kenyan record of 3:54.22, in a race won by Hassan in a 3:51.95 championship record.
International competition returned in 2021 and after improving again to 3:51.07 in Monaco, Kipyegon prepared for her Olympic title defence in Tokyo. It was a huge success. Clocking an Olympic record of 3:53.11, she became the first athlete to win back-to-back Olympic 1500m titles since Sebastian Coe in 1980-84.
Then came 2022 and the opportunity to regain the world 1500m crown in Oregon. Clocking 3:52.96 she claimed an unprecedented fourth medal in the event, and it was another gold.
“Everybody was like, ‘Faith, we believe in Faith,’ so it was a real pressure. But I managed it,” she said.
Instead of taking her foot off the gas and celebrating, Kipyegon turned her attention to the Herculis meeting in Monaco, where she ran 3:50.37 to miss Dibaba’s world 1500m record by just 0.3. She ended her season by winning the Diamond League title in Zurich.
Returning to her roots, Kipyegon started 2023 by winning the 10km race at the Sirikwa Cross Country Classic in Eldoret. Then she went back to the track and opened her season with a 3:58.57 1500m win at the Diamond League in Doha.
She was just getting warmed up.
Less than a month later, she set a world 1500m record of 3:49.11 at the Golden Gala meeting in Florence.
While that performance had been a long-held goal of Kipyegon’s, the world 5000m record that followed one week later in Paris was more of a surprise. Pushed by Letesenbet Gidey, Kipyegon triumphed in 14:05.20 to become the first woman in history to set world records at 1500m and 5000m.
Kipyegon will compete at the Herculis meeting in Monaco in July before turning her attention to the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 in August.
Born: 26 November 2000
Hailing from the Asella region of Ethiopia – the same area that produced stars such as Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba – Lamecha Girma started out as a 1500m runner, training at the Tirunesh Dibaba Athletics Club. But his path to becoming a global medal-winner really started when club coach Kefyalew Alemu noticed Girma’s height and long stride and suggested he might be good at the steeplechase.
The teenager then moved to the Youth Sport Academy in Addis Ababa to be guided by Teshome Kebede, the national coach for the steeplechase.
Girma’s 2019 season started promisingly, albeit low-key, with an 8:34 victory at the Assela Clubs Championships. It was followed by a bronze medal at the African U20 Championships in Abidjan. He then headed to Addis Ababa to compete at the senior Ethiopian Championships – his first senior-level competition – but he fell and twisted his ankle, so was unable to finish. Fortunately, he was still invited by the national federation to participate in Ethiopia’s World Championships trial race in Hengelo two months later. Clocking 8:08.18, he finished more than six seconds ahead of his nearest opponent to earn his place on Ethiopia’s team for the World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Despite some promising results at Diamond League meetings in the lead-up, Girma tried to keep his expectations low in Doha.
“It was my first race at the World Championships, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I had trained hard for a good result, but I didn’t expect to win.”
He came so close. Just 0.01 separated gold from silver – Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto taking the title in 8:01.35 and Girma securing the first in what would prove to be an impressive series of silvers with 8:01.36.
“I’m happy with the silver medal; I couldn’t do any more than that,” added Girma. “I am thrilled to be the first Ethiopian to win a steeplechase medal at the World Championships.”
He was shortlisted for the Rising Star award at that year’s World Athletics Awards in Monaco, an honour that his compatriot Selemon Barega won. But Girma went on to claim the Young Athlete of the Year award from the Confederation of African Athletics.
In 2020, Girma competed at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais for the first time, finishing fourth as he tested his speed in the 3000m. He returned 12 months later, making his 2021 debut with a 7:27.98 performance – one of the fastest times in history, but not enough to beat his compatriots Getnet Wale and Barega.
His focus was on that year’s Olympics, however, and once there he emulated his feat in Doha, claiming another silver medal in a race won by Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali.
Then came 2022 and another season opener at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais, this time one that was rewarded with a win in 7:30.54. His campaign continued at World Indoor Tour Gold meetings in Torun and Madrid before the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, where Girma proved that his major medal-winning ability was not limited only to the steeplechase.
Engaging in a last-lap sprint with Barega, the pair claimed an Ethiopian one-two. Barega got gold in 7:41.38 and Girma another silver in 7:41.63.
Outdoors, Girma improved his 3000m steeplechase PB in Ostrava, clocking a 7:58.68 Ethiopian record for a time that places him 12th on the world all-time list.
He capped the year with another world silver medal, finishing runner-up to El Bakkali at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
Four global silver medals provided the perfect motivation heading into 2023, and he started the year with a bang, breaking the world indoor 3000m record with 7:23.81.
He opened his outdoor season with victory over the same distance in Doha, clocking an outdoor best of 7:26.18 to beat a high quality field. It confirmed to Girma that he had the speed needed to challenge the steeplechase world record.
And that’s exactly what he did in Paris, storming to victory in 7:52.11 to break a record that had stood for 19 years.