Faith Kipyegon, ‘the sniper,’ becomes greatest female mile champ in history at track worlds

0 Comments

In 2015, Jenny Simpson, arguably the greatest U.S. female miler in history, slapped a label on a budding runner from Kenya named Faith Kipyegon.

“I call her the sniper,” Simpson said then, three months after the then-21-year-old Kipyegon won her first global 1500m medal, silver at the 2015 World Championships. “She won’t go out and run hard from the gun, but she can run people down. The last 200 meters or so she’s really good, and she’ll be four seconds back with a lap to go, and all of a sudden she’s running people down.

“I think she weighs as much as my right leg. She’s teeny.”

Kipyegon bagged her second world title on Monday, prevailing in 3 minutes, 52.96 seconds in Eugene, Oregon. That combined with her two Olympic golds, separated by a 22-month maternity leave from competition (that included 12 months without running), makes her the first woman to win four global 1500m titles.

“I knew I was the best,” said Kipyegon who overtook Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay on the final lap after Tsegay set a blistering early place. “I had pressure because everybody was expecting really special things for me. Everybody was like, ‘We have faith,’ ‘We believe in Faith.'”

She was one of four athletes from four different continents among Monday night’s five finals to win a fourth global title, along with Belgian Nafi Thiam (heptathlon), Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas (triple jump) and Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim (high jump).

TRACK WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster | Key Events

Kipyegon was the eighth of nine children growing on a farm in the Kenyan Rift Valley. Older sister Beatrice Mutai and her dad, Samuel Koech, also ran. Kipyegon was a soccer player at age 14 when she lined up for a one-kilometer run in PE class, according to World Athletics.

“I won that race by 20 meters,” Kipyegon said, according to World Athletics in 2016. “It is only then I knew I could run fast and be a good athlete.”

In 2010, a barefooted Kipyegon placed fourth in the world cross country championships junior race as, at age 16, the youngest finisher in the top 21. The next year, she won it. The year after that, she made her Olympic debut at age 18.

In 2016, she passed world record holder Genzebe Dibaba on the final lap to win Olympic gold. In 2017, she passed Sifan Hassan, the most versatile distance runner of this era, on the final lap to win world championships 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,” Brit Laura Muir reportedly said after following Kipyegon to silver and a personal-best time in Tokyo. “I don’t think she gets enough credit for the athlete she is. She’s won everything.”

Kipyegon is the fourth-fastest female miler in history, trailing two dubious Chinese and Dibaba, whose world record is a second faster than Kipyegon’s personal best. Kipyegon said that record isn’t a priority and that she may shift to the 5000m after the 2024 Paris Games, according to Olympics.com. No woman has won three Olympic gold medals in an individual track event.

Worlds continue Tuesday, highlighted by finals in the men’s 400m hurdles and men’s 1500m.

Also Monday, Thiam joined Kipyegon as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, prevailing with 6,947 points. American Anna Hall earned bronze with a 297-point personal best total. She vaulted from the 11th-best American in history to No. 3 behind world record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jane Frederick.

Like Kipyegon and Thiam, Rojas earned a fourth global title. She three-peated as world triple jump champion with the fifth-best jump in history. Rojas, 26, has six of the top seven jumps on the all-time list, including the world record. Tori Franklin earned bronze to become the first American woman to win an Olympic or world medal in the event.

Like Kipyegon, Thiam and Rojas, Barshim became a four-time global champion. He cleared 2.37 meters to three-peat as world champion, a year after sharing Olympic gold with Italian Gianmarco Tamberi (who was fourth Monday).

Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali followed his Olympic gold with his first world title in the 3000m steeplechase, making his move off the last water jump. On the first lap, runners had to avoid a camera man on the track.

All of the favorites advanced to 200m semifinals for the men (Americans Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton, after Olympic champion Andre De Grasse withdrew) and the women (Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceElaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson).

In the morning, Ethiopian Gotytom Gebreslase won the women’s marathon in a championship record 2:18:11, edging Kenyan Judith Jeptum Korir by nine seconds. Americans finished fifth (Sara Hall), seventh (Emma Bates) and eighth (Keira D’Amato). Gebreslase, the 2021 Berlin Marathon winner, extended Ethiopia’s early success at worlds after wins in the women’s 10,000m (Letesenbet Gidey) and men’s marathon (Tamirat Tola).

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
Getty
0 Comments

British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!