BUDAPEST (22-Aug) -- On a very warm night and in front of a roaring crowd at the National Athletics Center here, Kenya's Faith Kipyegon blasted the final lap of the women's 1500m final in 56.6 seconds to take her third world title in 3:54.87. Kipyegon, 29, who also won two consecutive Olympic 1500m titles in 2016 and 2021 and is also the world record holder, can now lay claim to being the best-ever women's miler in history. She dominated tonight's final, taking the lead right from the beginning and never relinquishing it.
Kipyegon not only showed her speed tonight, but her mastery of tactics. She sprinted down the backstretch right from the gun to jolt the field, but as she hit the bend she eased off the pace. Firmly in front, she took the field through 400m in a not-too-fast 1:05.2. She was followed closely by most of her top rivals: Ethiopia's Diribe Welteji, Britain's Laura Muir, and Ireland's Ciara Mageean. Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan --who is tripling here in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m-- chose to hang back, her usual tactic.
Kipyegon continued to lead through 800m (2:11.8) and kept the pace steady through the bell. She then accelerated, gaining steam like a tiny freight train down the backstretch. Welteji gave chase and kept it close, while Hassan shot ahead from the pack and moved into third place. The finish order did not change down the homestretch with Kipyegon holding the lead and Hassan unable to catch Welteji. Welteji was timed in 3:55.69 to Hassan's 3:56.00.
"It was not easy," Kipyegon continued. "It's all about executing as much as I can to defend my title, and I am so grateful."
Hassan, who finished 11th in the 10,000m after falling in the final 20 meters, now must prepare for the first round of the 5000m tomorrow night when she will again face Kipyegon (both women are in the second of two heats). She was in good spirits after her race tonight, joking with reporters.
"What is my plan?" Hassan asked rhetorically, repeating a reporter's question about the 5000m. "To get from Kenya the gold medal."
Mageean finished a strong fourth in 3:56.61, setting an Irish record, and Kipyegon's Kenyan teammate, Nelly Chepchirchir, was fifth in a personal best 3:57.90. Muir, the reigning European champion, finished sixth in 3:58.58. The lone American in the final, Cory McGee, finished tenth.
El Bakkali Repeats As Steeplechase Champion
The men's steeplechase final was also contested tonight, and featured a dream match-up between the defending world champion, Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, and the world record holder, Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia. El Bakkali, who is also the reigning Olympic champion, ran a smart race, staying slightly back from the lead and saving his energy. When Girma went to the lead with 5:45 showing on the clock, El Bakkali stayed close behind waiting for the right moment to strike. That moment came about 50 meters before the final water jump when the tall and lanky Moroccan made a powerful surge that Girma could not match. He romped to victory in 8:03.53, comfortably ahead of Girma (8:05.44). It was Girma's third consecutive silver medal at a World Athletics Championships (he was also the 2021 Olympic silver medalist).
"After winning in Eugene last year, I am really proud that I am bringing home another gold," El Bakkali told the flash quotes team after his race. "I had great preparations for these championships, but today's field was very strong with athletes like Lamecha. I came ready and prepared and I believed I could win."
Bronze went to Kenya's Abraham Kibiwot, despite taking a fall at the first barrier of the bell lap. He quickly got to his feet and was caught by teammate Leonard Bett. The two ran the final lap together, but Kibiwot just managed to hold off his compatriot in the homestretch, 8:11.98 to 8:12.26, to get the bronze.
"When Leonard Kipkemoi Bett managed to pass through me (after the fall), there was no question I will make it and finish on the podium," Kibiwot told the flash quotes team. "These times there are not tiredness. I feel so great; this is even more than happiness."
New Zealand's Geordie Beamish rounded out the top-5, running 8:13.46 in his first global final in the steeplechase (he only started to run the event this year). The top American was national champion Kenneth Rooks, who finished tenth.
Defending Champion Fails To Advance In 800M Qualifying
In the first round of the men's 800m several important athletes failed to advance, including reigning champion Emmanuel Korir of Kenya. Running in the fifth of seven heats, Korir went with the slow pace set by France's Benjamin Robert (55.04 at 400m), and was in the hunt for a top-3 auto qualifier until there were 100 meters to go (he was second at that point). But in the final push to the line, the 2021 Olympic champion faded and only finished fourth in 1:46.78, a mark that wasn't good enough to earn a time qualifier.
"To be honest, I did my best," Korir told Race Results Weekly. "You know, I wasn't expecting anything to happen because I haven't been training well, dealing with injuries since March. Now, I'm getting better, so just wanted to see how's my body is going to respond. I did well, for myself."
Also failing to advance from that heat was Clayton Murphy, the American veteran who won the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. Murphy led the second lap of the heat and was in the lead position coming out of the final bend. But he tied up in the final sprint and ended up sixth in 1:47.06.
"I did everything right (but) just didn't have it," a frustrated Murphy told Race Results Weekly. "That's it."
Among his two USA teammates, Bryce Hoppel advanced out of heat 4 by finishing second, while in heat 3 Isaiah Harris only finished fourth and was not able to move to the next round.
"I'm excited, I was feeling good," said Hoppel, who treated tonight's heat as something of a rust-buster. The reigning USA champion added: "It's always tough to get adjusted over here in Europe. Getting that one race in definitely makes you feel excited for the next."
Among other athletes with serious medal hopes, Emmanuel Wanyonyi of Kenya, Marco Arop of Canada, Andreas Kramer of Sweden, Max Burgin of Great Britain, Slimane Moula and Djamel Sedjati of Algeria and Saul Ordoņez of Spain all advanced to Thursday's semi-finals.
PHOTO: Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco (center) on his way to winning the 2023 world steeplechase title at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)