Two-time world 1,500m champion Faith Chengétich Kipyegon arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport just few minutes to midnight on Thursday to song and dance after her exploits in Oregon.
On hand to welcome back Chepngetich, who is now billed as the Greatest 1,500m woman of All Time (GOAT), were family members and her friends.
Chepngetich, the two-time Olympic champion, now harbours a lofty dream: to break the world 1,500m record of 3:50.07 set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba at the 2015 Diamond League meeting inside Stade Louis II in Monaco.
She said: “I am really looking forward to get what I am missing in my trophy cabinet; which is the world record. I will work hard and pray to God to give me the strength so that I can achieve this.”
She always borrows a famous Nigerian proverb ‘a determined hunter is never frightened in the jungle’ to re-affirm her prowess. And looks ready to hunt the world record on a familiar ground –Diamond League meeting at Stade Louis II in Monaco.
“I hope to stay mentally strong and remain injury free as I focus on this year’s events. In the next few weeks, I will compete at the Diamond League in Monaco. The Monaco track is fast and I hope to race well. It will be my second time competing in Monaco.
“I competed under a lot of pressure in Oregon. I was the strongest in the line up. My fellow Kenyan athletes tried very well. We faced a lot of challenges like competing without physiotherapists and missing visas. It was not easy and let’s cross fingers in the men’s 800m and women’s 800m as well as the men’s 5,000m. We hope to win gold medals.
“I am looking forward to seeing my daughter back at home and my husband. I really appreciate my coach and my management. Thanks for the support and motivation for our team to win medals,” she said.
Chepngetich has come a long way from the clean-shaven Winners Girls High School student who, as a junior, raced her peers to the ground.
She has achieved what most of her peers just dream of. Sample her calling card; World Youth (Under-18), World Junior (Under-20), World Cross Country, Commonwealth Games, World Relays, two World Championships crowns and two Olympic titles.
“I couldn’t sleep the moment we landed in London in 2017. I did not even feel hungry. It was an extremely difficult time waiting for the competition. The only good thing is that the pressure was not only on me but also on the rest of the field.
“It was well distributed among us, especially after I lost to Sifan Hassan at the Monaco Diamond League that time before coming into the championships,” she said, before making history in 2017 as the first Kenyan female world champion in 1,500m since the race was introduced in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1995.
At times, Chepngetich trains in Dutch’s oldest city of Nijmegen, where their management has a camp.
As a Form Two Student at Winner’s Girls High School in Keringet,Nakuru County she was among young athletes feted at the centenary celebrations of the World Athletics in Barcelona, Spain, in 2012.
All along Chepngetich had wanted to improve on her father Samuel Koech’s exploits in athletics.
“My father was a good 800m and 1,500m runner but unfortunately, he never boarded a plane. He would only win his races up to nationals and go back home as there were no big competitions like we have these days,” she said.
In 2014 during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, Chepngetich, then a Form Three Student, exhibited exceptional courage to snatch the 1,500m gold me.
At only 27, she has a long career ahead, and no doubt, her charming smile will light up the finish line again and again, her athletic, beautiful frame draped in the national flag inside Hayward Field this week.
“You know, it’s really hard to say I am the best or that I will the best ever. I prefer to make short-term plans to avoid putting too much pressure on myself. So far, I’m happy with my achievements,” she said.
Confident, gorgeous, eloquent, humble. That’s the track assassin who always keeps the Faith. With proper management of her training regimen and competitions, Chepngetich can match the longevity of 2018 London Marathon winner Vivian Cheruiyot, who spent 18 years actively competing on the track.