What you need to know:
- Kipyegon remained modest and guarded in her responses, saying she’s not under pressure to chase down her fourth world record of the year in today’s mile race where she will team up with Nelly Chepchirchir.
Ahead of her second world record this year in Paris last June, Faith Kipyegon told me she was simply out to support Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey who was attempting to improve on her own world best mark in the 5,000 metres.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow to just have fun… I know there are very strong ladies in the 5,000 metres. I’m just going to follow them and see what happens at the finish line and in the race,” she told me at the Stade Charletey on the eve of the Paris Diamond League meeting on June 9.
Kipyegon then stalked Gidey and struck, winning the race in a new world record time of 14 minutes, 05.20 seconds, her second world record in a week after improving the 1,500m mark to 3:49.11 at the Florence Diamond League meeting earlier on.
There was a feeling of déjà vu speaking to the 29-year-old superstar on Saturday as she prepares to line up for the one-mile race at the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships here in Riga.
The world record in the road mile stands at four minutes, 27.97 seconds from April 25th this year and is held by American Nikki Hiltz who clocked it in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kipyegon remained modest and guarded in her responses, saying she’s not under pressure to chase down her fourth world record of the year in today’s mile race where she will team up with Nelly Chepchirchir.
“My aim is to just run and enjoy the one mile tomorrow… I don’t know about the world record… I don’t even know what the world record time is… I’m going to see what the record time is and if the body is healthy, we’ll see what will happen tomorrow,” she said on Saturday at the Radisson Blu team hotel in downtown Riga.
Her manager Valentijn Trouw of Global Sports Communication is also careful not to have Kipyegon under too much pressure, and followed our interview keenly.
Kipyegon is excited at the newly-crafted World Athletics Road Running Championships that incorporates the mile, five-kilometre and half marathon races, a departure from the exclusively half marathon championship staple of old.
Mass races, where recreational runners charge at the championship courses, have also been added to the menu.
“It’s a new challenge and a good introduction by World Athletics. For us elite track athletes to come out here and run road races is an amazing thing because the road is the end of our careers due to the fact that we go to the marathons (after track),” she observed.
Kipyegon started the season on a high, tearing apart the opposition to win the senior women’s race at the Sirikwa Classic Cross-Country Championships in Eldoret in February before hitting the track in world record shape.
How does she fancy her chances on the road?
“Track gives me the greatest challenge. I had been looking forward to breaking the world record in the 1,500 metres and this year I achieved it,” she responded.
“The year 2023 has been amazing for me, breaking the world records and winning the gold medals (at the World Championships) in Budapest and I want to see what I can also do on the road.”
Kipyegon and Chepchirchir will be up against a strong challenge from the Ethiopian pair of Freweyni Hailu and Deribe Welteji with Uganda’s 800 metres bronze medallist from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow Winnie Nanyondo and her teammate Prisca Chesang, a bronze medallist at the World Under-20 Championships both in Nairobi (2021) and Cali, Colombia (last year).
On Friday, World Athletics President Seb Coe urged locals to turn up en masse and watch Kipyegon’s exploits on the streets of Riga.
“The message to the people of Riga is ‘get out there on the side of the road and watch an athlete that in any generation is as good as they get.’
“She (Kipyegon) is an outstanding athlete and at this moment, you will be hard-pushed not to say that she’s arguably the best female athlete regardless of distance or discipline,” Coe said at the pre-event press conference.