Faith Kipyegon pushes pace and pulls away to defend 1,500m title at world championships
Budapest, Hungary — Faith Kipyegon's race strategy isn't all that complicated. What works is that she's among the few who can execute it.
"Get to the front and go faster," the Kenyan runner explained.
Her pace, the one that she's used to set three different world records at three different distances this season, also brought her a second-straight 1,500-meter title on a muggy Tuesday night at world championships.
Popping out quickly to the lead, then daring the other 11 runners to reel her in, the 29-year-old Kipyegon's tactics are not for the faint of heart.
More often than not in these races, early leaders fade. Not this one. Kipyegon finished in a time of 3 minutes, 54.87 seconds to beat Diribe Welteji of Ethiopia by almost a second. Sifan Hassan, running from back in the pack, as is her custom, surged into third place.
“I told myself, ‘You are the strongest and just keep going,’” Kipyegon said.
Whether it's winning races or setting records, Kipyegon has been in quite a zone this summer. Over a 50-day span, she set world marks in the 1,500 meters, 5,000 and the mile.
In Budapest, Kipyegon says, it's all about medals, not records.
No time for rest, though. Kipyegon will be back on the track Wednesday evening for the start of the 5,000 meters. She got a bit of a reprieve when officials decided to move the event to the night session due to excessive heat forecast for Wednesday morning.
The Dutch runner Hassan will be in the field, too, and running her third event at worlds, much as she did at the Olympics two years ago where she won two golds and a bronze.
It's a decision she's starting to lament.
“Before I decided to these three events, I did not look at how fast the girls are this year,” said Hassan, who regrouped for a medal Tuesday after a fall near the finish in the 10,000 meters over the weekend cost her a chance at one. “When I looked at the start list for my heat, I was wondering why I put myself in this position. I would never have imagined that I would win a medal.”
Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali rose to the occasion once again at a big meet in defending his steeplechase world title. It pairs perfectly with his gold from the Tokyo Games.
For Lamecha Girma, the world record holder in steeplechase, it's yet another silver medal. He's finished runner-up three times at worlds and once at the Olympics.
“I still aim to win gold at the world championships or Olympic Games,” Girma said. “Nothing has changed in my goals. Maybe, I become even more motivated for next year.”
Laulauga Tausaga and Valarie Allman finished 1-2 for the Americans in the discus. Tausaga used the biggest throw of her career — her mark of 69.49 meters (228 feet) was a four-meter improvement over her previous best — to edge Allman.
The Hawaiian-born, California-raised, University of Iowa-educated Tausaga was just as shocked as anyone.
“I don’t know if I have a fairy godmother or something, or my ancestors had some say in it, but I was able to do something tonight that I didn’t think was possible yet,” Tausaga said. “No one was expecting me and I just showed up.”
Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi earned a gold medal he won't have to share. He edged American JuVaughn Harrison courtesy of clearing 2.36 meters (7-8 3/4) on his first attempt while Harrison needed two.
At the Tokyo Games, Tamberi and good friend Mutaz Essa Barshim finished tied for first and they agreed to share the gold. Tamberi jumped up and down in elation.
This time, Barshim took bronze. And the Italian started a party that could go on for a while.
“I need to celebrate this medal,” said Tamberi, who shaves one half of his face and leaves the other half with stubble. “Because after one year of sacrifices and diet, I deserve it.”
It was a tough night for former world champions Dalilah Muhammad (400 hurdles) and Steven Gardiner (400). Muhammad, struggling with injuries this season, couldn't advance out of the semifinals, while Gardiner collapsed to the track rounding the final bend and grabbed his leg.
For Muhammad, it was a rare early exit. The runner-up at last summer's worlds and at the Tokyo Games, she had struggled with Achilles issues.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet that I won’t make the final, but it was all a bit of a Hail Mary to be honest,” the 33-year-old said.
Dutch hurdler Femke Bol has regrouped from her fall a few meters before the finish line in the mixed 4x400 relay. She showed precisely why she's the favorite in the 400 hurdles, powering her way past the field to win her semifinal heat.
It's a gold medal up for grabs in the absence of world record holder Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who skipped the competition to focus on the 400 and later withdrew due to a knee issue.
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