What you need to know:
- Inside just seven days, Kipyegon, a 29-year-old mother of one from Keringet, Nakuru County, has obliterated two track world records in amazing fashion, and it seems like she’s just warming up
- On a warm Paris night on Friday, the Kenyan superstar once again stole the show, stalking the pre-race favourite and outgoing 5,000m record holder, Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, to set a new mark over the distance, an astonishing 14:05.20
- President William Ruto led Kenyans in celebrating Kipyegon’s amazing week, describing her as an inspiration to the nation
What a night in Paris! Probably the greatest ever in distance running, a perfect preamble to next year’s Olympics in the French capital and the best advertising for track and field.
And Kenya was very much at the heart of it, in the form of the tantalising World and Olympic 1,500 metres champion, now double world record holder, Faith Kipyegon.
Inside just seven days, Kipyegon, a 29-year-old mother of one from Keringet, Nakuru County, has obliterated two track world records in amazing fashion, and it seems like she’s just warming up!
In the Italian leg of the Diamond League series in Florence eight days ago, Kipyegon smashed the 1,500m mark, clocking 3:49.11 and eclipsing the previous best of 3:50.07 set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in Monaco in 2015.
And on a warm Paris night on Friday, the Kenyan superstar once again stole the show, stalking the pre-race favourite and outgoing 5,000m record holder, Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, to set a new mark over the distance, an astonishing 14:05.20.
It felt like Paris, hosts of next year’s summer Olympics, were already staging the Games as some 8.6 kilometres to the north west of the Stade Sebastien Charlety, there was red-hot Grand Slam semi-final action of the French Open at Roland Garros.
Norwegian Casper Ruud set up a final on the clay with Serbian Novak Djokovic after overpowering German Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 as Djokovic eased past cramping Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 7-5, 6-1, 6-1.
But it was at the Charlety that Kipyegon was serving the aces, stalking Gidey and breaking the Ethiopian with a blistering pace in the final 200 metres after some amazing pacemaking by Kenya’s steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech who dropped off at 3,000 metres with the clock reading 8:31.91.
Besides Kipyegon’s record run, Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma also had a record-breaking run, overcoming the 19-year-old steeplechase record held by Kenya-born Qatari Said Saeed Shaheen (Stephen Cherono) clocking 7:52.11, an improvement of 1.52 seconds off Shaheen’s 7:53.63 set in 2004 in Brussels.
Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen also ran a world best in the two miles, clocking 7:54.10 to improve of Kenyan legend Daniel Komen’s previous best of 7:58.61 set in 1997 in Hechtel, Belgium.
And with the Wavelights Technology, the latest innovation in track running, coming into play in all distance races on Friday night, Kipyegon knew she just had to stay ahead of the green lights signalling a world record pace, not worry about Gidey and the record would be hers for the taking.
The bell sounding at 13:04.1, Kipyegon knew the task ahead in the last 400 metres, and – with the vocal Parisian crowd behind her - she conjured up a 61.1-second final lap to slice 1.42 seconds off Gidey’s previous mark of 14:06.62 set last October at the specially-organised NN World Record Day at Valencia’s Estadia del Turia.
Interestingly, one of the inventors of the Wavelights Technology, Dutchman Jos Hermens, is the chief executive at Global Sports Communications, the Nijmegen (Netherlands) based athletics management company that handles Kipyegon.
“Yes, tonight was an incredible Wavelight night! Amazing! Much more to follow… It went perfect!,” Hermens reacted to Nation Sport moments after Kipyegon’s victory.
Kipyegon offered a word of encouragement to Kenyan women running the 5,000m, saying she didn’t expect to do well over the distance herself, but hastening to add that anything is possible with hard work and focus, noting that the Wavelight Technology aided her very well.
“I want to encourage them to work hard. The 5,000m is not my specialty but it’s not difficult, neither is it easy to run the 12 laps.
“But I didn’t want to focus on the laps or on Gidey or the clock. I just decided to follow the lights because I knew the lights go fast. These days the Wavelight Technology has really assisted us as one just has to concentrate on the lights.
“As you saw, I stopped focusing on Gidey and concentrated on the green lights because I knew it would keep me focused to that I could kick in the last 400 metres… I thank God… I wasn’t expecting this… It’s like I’ve run mad!”
Kipyegon was lost for words at the media mixed zone after the incredible performance.
A race official quickly whisked away the Kenyan superstar’s white Nike racing spikes, ostensibly for procedural compliance testing before the world record is officially ratified by World Athletics.
Kipyegon dedicated her latest record to her long-time coach, Olympic silver medalist Patrick Sang who also handles double Olympic marathon champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge under the Global Sports Communication stable.
“I dedicate this record to my coach – thank you very much Patrick Sang,” she said, emotion clearly etched all over her face.
“He’s been so supportive and brought me from nowhere… I have no words to describe his contribution to my career.”
Coach Sang, 59, is a decorated athlete in his own right, winning silver medals in the steeplechase at the World Championships in 1991 (Tokyo) and 1993 (Stuttgart) and at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics after winning gold at the 1987 All Africa Games on home soil in Nairobi.
Reacting to Kipyegon’s record, Sang, also a former sports executive in the Nandi County Government, said it was a result of years of hard work.
“It’s not an event, but a journey over a number of years, working both on the body and mind as they’ve to be in sync at the right moment as we’ve witnessed,” Sang exclusively told Nation Sport after the Paris race.
President William Ruto led Kenyans in celebrating Kipyegon’s amazing week, describing her as an inspiration to the nation.
“Tenacity, focus, hunger for excellence and a winning mindset are the formula for greatness. Faith Kipyegon has done it again. Another World Record this time in the 5,000 metres. What an athlete! What an inspiration! What a champion! Congratulations, Kenya is immensely proud of you,” President Ruto posted on his social media handles.
Women’s 5,000m results
1. Faith Kipyegon (Kenya) 14:05.20 (world record),
2. Letesenbet Gidey (Ethiopia) 14:07.94,
3. Ejgayehu Taye (Ethiopia) 14:13.31,
4. Lilian Kasait Rengeruk (Kenya) 14:23.05,
5. Freweyni Hailu (Ethiopia) 14:23.45,
6. Margaret Chelimo (Kenya) 14:23.67,
7. Lemlem Hailu (Ethiopia) 14:34.53,
8. Alicia Monson (USA) 14:34.88,
9. Agnes Jebet (Kenya) 14:36.70,
10. Grace Loibach Nawowuna (Kenya) 14:42.63,
11. Laura Muir (Great Britain) 14:48.14,
12. Elly Henes (USA) 15:04.54,
13. Whittni Morgan (USA) 15:20.59.