Reigning Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon longs to make history at the 18th World Athletics Championships that gets underway at Hayward Field inside University of Oregon, Eugene, in USA tomorrow.
Kipyegon, the only Kenyan woman to have won 1,500m gold at the World Championships, wants to become the first two-time Olympic and two-time world champion.
She will marshal forces with Africa 1,500m champion Winnie Chebet, Olympian Edinah Jebitok and Judy Kiyeng, the younger sister of 2015 world 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng.
They will be up against Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan who will compete in 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m at the biannual showpiece.
As it stands, few could argue with Kipyegon’s claims to being the greatest female 1,500m runner of all time. But if the 27-year-old can reclaim her world title in Oregon – and make it a fourth global outdoor championships gold – then the debate will be fully over.
Based on recent form, it will take something special to stop her. The Kenyan was beaten to gold by Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands at the last edition of these championships in Doha in 2019, but since then she has been close to unbeatable at her favoured distance, her sole loss coming at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence last year after a thrilling home-straight duel with Hassan.
But as good as she is on the circuit, Kipyegon always saves her best for championships, and in Tokyo last year she retained her Olympic title in style in 3:53.11. She also clocked a blazing 3:51.07 in Monaco, the fourth fastest time in history. Kipyegon has tasted defeat over 800m and 3,000m already this season, but when it comes to the women’s 1,500m final on July 18, it’s hard to envisage anyone getting the better of the Kenyan, who possesses a change of gears that so often proves unstoppable.
At the Diamond League meeting in Eugene in late May, Kipyegon took on many of her chief rivals and prevailed with a racing style that has become her trademark – coasting to the shoulder of the leader on the final lap and exploding off the final turn – clocking 3:52.59 on a damp ahead of Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay (3:54.21).
Those times put them well clear of the others on the 2022 world list, but one athlete who has been laying low so far this season due to health issues – and who, at her best, can trouble Kipyegon – is Hassan.
Tsegay, the world indoor 1,500m record-holder, will be hoping to bring the gold medal in this event back to Ethiopia for just the second time in the event’s history following Genzebe Dibaba’s victory in 2015.