In 2015, jenny simpsonarguably the greatest American midfielder in history, has tagged an aspiring Kenyan runner named Faith Kipyegon.
“I call her the sniper,” Simpson said then, three months after the then 21-year-old Kipyegon won her first world 1,500m medal, silver at the 2015 World Championships. She won’t come out and run away from the gun, but she can knock people down. The last 200 or so meters she’s really good, and she’ll be four seconds down with one lap to go, and all of a sudden she’s knocking people over.
“I think it weighs as much as my right leg. It’s very small.
Kipyegon won his second world title on Monday, winning in 3 minutes, 52.96 seconds in Eugene, Oregon. This, combined with her two Olympic gold medals, separated by a 22-month maternity leave out of competition (including 12 months without racing), makes her the first woman to win four world titles in the 1500m.
She was one of four athletes from four different continents in Monday night’s five finals to win a fourth world title, along with the Belgian Nafi Thiam (heptathlon), Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas (triple jump) and Qatar Mutaz Barshim (big jump).
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Kipyegon was the eighth of nine children growing up on a farm in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Older sister Beatrice Mutai and his dad, Samuel Koch, also ran. Kipyegon was a 14-year-old soccer player when she lined up for a one-kilometre class PE race, according to World Athletics.
“I won that 20-meter race,” Kipyegon said, according to World Athletics in 2016. “It was only then that I knew I could run fast and be a good athlete.”
In 2010, a barefoot Kipyegon placed fourth in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships as, at age 16, the youngest finisher in the top 21. The following year she won it . The following year, she made her Olympic debut at age 18.
In 2016, she became world record holder Genzebe Dibaba in the final lap to win Olympic gold. In 2017, she died Sifan Hassan, the most versatile long-distance runner of that era, on the final lap to win world championship gold. She did the same to Hassan at the Tokyo Games.
“I’m biased, but in my eyes she’s the greatest 1500m runner there has ever been,” said Brit Laura Muir reportedly said after following Kipyegon to silver and a personal best in Tokyo. “I don’t think she gets enough credit for the athlete she is. She won it all.
Kipyegon is the fourth fastest midfielder in history, behind two questionable Chinese and Dibaba, whose world record is one second faster than Kipyegon’s personal best. Kipyegon said that record was not a priority and she could move up to the 5,000m after the Paris 2024 Games, according to Olympics.com. No woman has won three Olympic gold medals in an individual track event.
The world championships continue on Tuesday, highlighted by the finals of the men’s 400m hurdles and the men’s 1500m.
Also Monday, Thiam joined Kipyegon as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, winning with 6,947 points. American Anna Hall won bronze with a personal best 297 points. She went from the 11th best American in history to No. 3 behind the world record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jeanne Frederick.
Like Kipyegon and Thiam, Rojas won a fourth world title. She won the triple jump world championship title three times with the fifth best jump in history. Rojas, 26, has six of the seven best jumps on the all-time list, including the world record. Tori Franklin won bronze to become the first American woman to win an Olympic or World medal in this event.
Like Kipyegon, Thiam and Rojas, Barshim became four-time world champion. He cleared 2.37 meters to triple as world champion, a year after sharing Olympic gold with the Italian Gianmarco Tamberi (which was the fourth Monday).
Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali followed his Olympic gold medal with his first world title in the 3000m steeplechase, coming out of the final water jump.
All the favorites qualified for the men’s 200m semi-finals (Americans Noah Lyles and Erryon Knightonafter Olympic champion Andre of Grasse retired) and women (Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson).
Morning, Ethiopian Gotytom Gebreslase won the women’s marathon with a championship record of 2:18:11, edging the Kenyan Judith Jeptum Korir nine seconds. The Americans finished fifth (Sara Room), seventh (Emma Bates) and eighth (Keira D’Amato). Gebreslase, winner of the 2021 Berlin Marathon, extended Ethiopia’s early success at the world championships after winning the women’s 10,000m (Letesenbet Gidey) and men’s marathon (Tamirat Tola).
NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.
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