Kipyegon cruises to Kenyan 1500m record in Monaco
It’s all about keeping the faith.
Going into tonight’s 1500m at the EBS Herculis meeting in Monaco, world champion Sifan Hassan announced that she had asked for a pace of 61-second laps, which would add up to a second or so under the current world record of 3:50.07.
The Dutchwoman has set world records twice previously in Monaco, most recently over the mile two years ago, and she was feeling confident after rediscovering her love for the metric mile with a victory over Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence last month.
Hassan even floated the idea of adding the 1500m back into her Olympic schedule, having previously declared that she would attempt the 5000m-10,000m double.
She locked in behind the pacemaker from the beginning, her ambition obvious. Only Kipyegon and Ethiopia’s Freweyni Hailu dared to follow and the race was down to three when they reached the bell.
Hassan then turned the screws, but Kipyegon clung to her like a limpet down the back straight as the Dutchwoman stretched out her legs for the run home.
In the past three years races have inevitably gone Hassan’s way in this situation, her unmatched mix of speed and endurance proving irresistible. But not this time.
As they entered the final straight Kipyegon kicked hard, dashing past her rival and sprinting down the straight to win in 3:51.07, a Kenyan record and the fourth fastest time in history. In the last 90 metres she put two-and-a-half seconds into Hassan, who finished in 3:53.60, with Hailu third in a personal best of 3:56.28.
Despite her recent losses to Hassan, Kipyegon said she remained confident that her day would come.
“I knew Sifan was going for a fast race and my goal was to run a fast race here and I thank God that was,” she said. “I am really looking forward to Tokyo and I know it will be a very hard competition but I hope to go there and defend my title.”
Kipyegon gave birth to her first child in 2018, returning in 2019 to finish second to Hassan at the World Championships in Doha, but has now found an even richer vein of form than that which carried her to the Olympic title in 2016 and the world title in 2017. “I came back after giving birth and I feel like a role model for the young mothers out there and the young athletes,” she said. “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.”
Fellow Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot was also a man on a mission tonight.
With his Olympic dreams hanging in the balance, the world 1500m champion dashed to the fastest time in the world for six years.
An out-of-sorts Cheruiyot was a shock fourth at the Kenyan Olympic trials last month, putting him in grave danger of missing selection. The situation has been complicated by the fact that second-placed Kamar Etiang has not completed the requisite number of anti-doping tests to qualify for the Olympic Games so his eligibility is in question.
That has left Cheruiyot in limbo just weeks before the Tokyo Games, but he thrust aside all that uncertainty to race with clear intent in Monaco.
In the fastest race of the year, he led at the bell and fought off all challenges, setting a personal best of 3:28.28 as four men dipped under 3:30.
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