World Track and Field Championships 2022: Olympic gold medallist Faith Kipyegon looks to cement status as greatest ever 1500m runner

The 28-year-old middle distance star boasts of two Olympic titles and three World Championships medals. The Kenyan now wants to win her second world title as she eyes her final 1500m race at Paris 2024.

By Evelyn Watta
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

No woman has ever held two Olympic titles and the same number of World Athletics Championship titles in the 1500m.

Double Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon could achieve this feat at her fifth Track and Feidl Worlds in Oregon on Monday (18 July).

The Kenyan, who is the only woman in history with six races under 3 minutes 55 seconds in the 1500m, has finished in the top two of each of her Championship races since Beijing 2015.

Even without the world record, a second World Championship gold medal will cement Kipyegon’s status as the greatest ever female runner over 1500m, adding to her four World U20 titles over a range of courses and distances.

Kipyegon’s incredible show of dominance in cross country and track

Like most of her running compatriots, Kipyegon began to develop as an athlete while she was in primary school, and at 16 she had earned her stripes.

Bydgoszcz was the course that launched the talent to the world. Running with bare feet, Kipyegon rounded off the top four positions by Kenyan runners at the 2010 World Cross Country that Mercy Cherono won.

In 2011, at the World Cross Country event in Punta Umbria, she again went barefoot. The teen prodigy unleashed a long explosive sprint to win her first of four junior global titles.

 Faith Kipyegon (R) on her way to gold in the Junior Women's race during the 39th World Cross Country Championships on March 20, 2011 in Punta Umbria, Spain.
Picture by 2011 Getty Images

When Kipyegon's numbers alone are dizzying, the 28-year-old is a seven-time world medallist. Even as she reigned supreme running cross country, which she enjoyed, Kipyegon carved out a niche as a 1500m runner early. She won back-to-back world U18 and world U20 titles in 2011-2012.

At London 2012 she was one of the youngest members of Kenya’s track and field team. The two-time world cross country champion was eliminated in the heats, but the race left a lasting impression and triggered her Olympic dream.

Her championship pedigree has seen her win gold and two silvers at the last four editions of the worlds. Even more impressive was that she bagged the silver at the 2019 World Championships in Doha after a 21-month maternity break.

And at Tokyo 2020 in 2021 Kipyegon convincingly defended her Olympic title in 3:53.11, bettering the Games record that had stood for 33 years.

It made her the second woman in Olympic history to win back-to-back 1500m titles. Tatyana Kazankina, a former Soviet Union runner, was the first woman to successfully defend the 1500m Olympic title.

READ MORE: Nigeria’s teen sprint sensation Favour Ofili set to impress at 2022 Athletics Worlds: 'I am going there to win'

Kipyegon’s staggering records

It’s not just about her titles her records are also staggering. Kipyegon is the only woman to have run six races under three minutes, 55 seconds in the 1500m.

Kipyegon also owns five of the fastest times ever in the women’s 1500 headed by Genzebe Dibaba’s world record of 3:50.07 from 2017.

1500m women all-time top list

  1. Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) 3:50.07 WR
  2. Yunxia Qu (CHN) 3:50.46
  3. Jiang BO (CHN) 3:50.98
  4. Faith Kipyegon (KEN) 3:51.07
  5. Yinglai Lang 3:51.34

READ MORE: Athletics: All track and field world records at a glance ahead of 2022 World Championships

Surrounded by some of the best distance runners in the world, the fourth fastest 1500m runner in history trains in the famous Kaptagat training camp in Kenya’s Eldoret region.

She counts the greatest marathoner Eliud Kipchoge as her training mate under legendary athletics coach Patrick Sang.

She has shared her desire to break the world record in the 1500m, but this has never been her priority.

“For now I'm looking forward to (Paris) 2024 Olympics, I want to defend my title before maybe shifting to 5000m,” she said in an interview with the Olympic Channel after the Olympic final.

“I'm still strong in 1500m and I’ll do that at the 2022 World Championship. And maybe after that I will shift 5000m but depending on how my body will be by that time.”

Kipyegon is in Olympic shape

She was outstanding in her Olympic year, winning nine of her 10 races that included her personal best at the Monaco Diamond League, just a second off the world record.

“I came back after giving birth and I feel like a role model for the young mothers out there and the young athletes,” she told World Athletics after her Kenyan record of 3:51.07 in Monaco. “I hope to show them that when you go for maternity leave, this does not mean the end of your career. You can come back strong and win races.”

Kipyegon is still in the Olympic final shape.

She has only raced one 1500m this season at the Prefontaine Classic meet and we could see her best at the Hayward Field again. In May, she blasted to a meet record and world lead of 3:52.59.

Her season opener was a 3000m race where she finished in second place behind Francine Niyonsaba at the first stop of the Diamond League in Doha.

The middle-distance queen stepped down to the 800m at the FBK Games in Hengelo where she won in 2:00.36, holding off the world champion from Doha Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda.

The champion's season best of 1:58.18 over the 800m was at the Kenyan Trials behind Mary Moraa who won in 1:57.45.

At Hayward field she will again face the reigning world 800m indoor champion Gudaf Tsegay whom she beat to second place at the Pre-Classic at the same venue and Scotland’s Laura Muir who took silver in Tokyo. The Dutch star Sifan Hassan, the only woman who has beaten Kipyegon over 1500m since the start of 2017, opted out of the 1500m to focus on the distance double.

“I can say Sifan Hassan’s (absence) doesn’t change anything for me. We were all coming here for the medal.

“1500 has many upcoming athletes, so I can say I have confidence that I’m going to run my best and produce the best,” she said after her qualifying heat on Friday, 15 July in Oregon.

It is still a deep entry list that promises to make the women’s 1500m another thrilling event and possibly confirm Kipyegon as the greatest 1500m runner in history.

Keep up with all the action in our Live Blog updates throughout Track & Field Worlds 2022, here.

How to watch Faith Kipyegon in the women's 1500m at the 2022 Track and Field Worlds

The women's 1500m final takes place on Monday 18th July 2022, as the last event of the evening session, starting at 19:50 Pacific Daylight Time / PDT (02:50 GMT/UTC on Tuesday 19 July).

In the United States, NBC holds the broadcast rights to the World Championships. Coverage will be on USA Network, NBC, and CNBC, and streamed on Peacock and the NBC Sports website –check listings for further details.

A full list of broadcasters around the world can be found here.

You can also stay tuned to Olympics.com as we will bring you live blog updates from every session of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, as well as features and previews from all the key events.

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