Faith Kipyegon the GOAT Wins Global 1500m Title #4 at 2022 Worlds

By Jonathan Gault
July 18, 2022

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EUGENE, Ore. — The world has never seen a women’s 1500-meter runner like Faith Kipyegon. The 28-year-old Kenyan already cemented her status as the greatest woman in the history of her event by winning her second straight Olympic title last year in Tokyo, and on night 4 of the 2022 World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field she once again showed why she is the best to ever do it by winning her fourth global title in 3:52.96.

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World Indoor champion Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia threw everything she had at Kipyegon, blitzing the first lap in 58.82 and the first 800 in 2:03.18, but nothing worked — once again, there Kipyegon was on her shoulder at the bell, just as she had been at the Pre Classic seven weeks ago. Then, as now, it was a matter of when, not if, Kipyegon would strike, and once she moved past Tsegay on the back straight it was no contest, Kipyegon closing her final 200 in 30.29 (61.20 last lap) to claim victory. Tsegay held on for silver in 3:54.52 while Great Britain’s Laura Muir, who struggled early in the year as she returned from a back injury, ran 3:55.28 for third to cap an impressive comeback and earn her second straight medal.

This final was effectively two races: one to determine the order of the medals as Tsegay, Kipyegon, and Muir broke away; and one to determine who finished 4th (Ethiopia’s Hirut Meshesha, a two-time winner on the Diamond League circuit this year running her first global final, tried to go with the leaders early but paid for it dearly as she went from 4th at the bell to 12th by the finish). Muir tried gamely to run down Tsegay and replicate her silver from Tokyo last year but it was not to be and she was forced to settle for bronze.

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images for World Athletics)

Further back, the chase pack — yes, the broadcast literally featured a Tour de France-style “chase pack” graphic for a 1500 race — let the leaders go to start the race but they couldn’t entirely avoid getting sucked into a fast early pace as the chasers, led by Winny Chebet, hit 400 in 61.12. Heck, Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui went out in 62.36 (3:53 pace) and was in dead last after one lap. Ultimately the fourth placer was the same as last year in Tokyo: Ethiopia’s Freweyni Hailu. The only difference was, Hailu only ran 4:01.28 tonight compared to 3:57.60 in the Olympic final a year ago.

American champ Sinclaire Johnson finished 6th in her first global final in 4:01.63 as Cory McGee, who was near the front of the chase pack for most of the race, was 10th in 4:03.70.

Results

POS
BIB
COUNTRY ATHLETE
MARK
1
906
KEN
3:52.96
2
642
ETH
3:54.52
3
703
GBR
3:55.28 SB
4
637
ETH
4:01.28
5
1007
POL
4:01.43 SB
6
1178
USA
4:01.63
7
423
AUS
4:01.82
8
1122
UGA
4:01.98
9
420
AUS
4:03.26
10
1187
USA
4:03.70
11
619
ESP
4:04.25
12
638
ETH
4:05.86
13
897
KEN
4:15.13

Quick Take: Faith Kipyegon was already the GOAT; now she’s just running up the score

Faith Kipyegon could have retired after last year and gone down as the greatest female miler to ever live. We laid out the GOAT explanation in our race preview, so feel free to check that out for the details, but the salient points are that Kipyegon has the highest number of fast times and the most global titles (4). Her 3:52.96 tonight was her third time under 3:53 (no one else has done it more than once) and her sixth time under 3:54 (comprising one-third of all outdoor sub-3:54’s in history).

The only thing missing from her resume is a world record, but that could change soon. Kipyegon said after the first round in Eugene that she was only focused on Worlds right now, but that once Worlds were done she’d like to take a shot at lowering her pb. Her pb is 3:51.07, exactly one second slower than the world record. And there’s a Diamond League 1500 in Monaco on August 10. Seems like a good time to take a crack at that WR.

Quick Take: This was a fairly predictable race up front

If you’ve ever watched Gudaf Tsegay race, you know she likes to take it out hard. Like, really hard. It’s not uncommon for Tsegay to go out sub-60, but she’s fast enough (3:53 pb) that you have to respect any move she makes. That’s why Kipyegon and Muir were right on her.

But it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how this one would go. Tsegay has shown she’s the clear #2 in the world this year but she’s never beaten Kipyegon, sporting an 0-13 lifetime record. Anyone paying attention this year would have predicted Kipyegon and Tsegay to go 1-2 in that order.

Tsegay chose a strategy that was likely going to end in defeat but also produce her best chance at a medal, running as fast as possible and daring the field to come with her. And it’s hard to criticize her. When you’re up against the GOAT of your event who is in 3:52 shape (or perhaps faster), there aren’t many good options. No strategy is effective against that kind of fitness deficit.

Quick Take: Kudos to a resilient Laura Muir on a hard-earned bronze

Muir once had a reputation as the 1500’s nearly-woman, finishing 5th, 7th, 4th, and 5th at the four global champs from 2015-19. But she shed that label with a silver in Tokyo last year and tonight added a second medal to cement her status as someone who can get it done on the big stage. This one was particularly hard-earned. A back injury prevented Muir from racing indoors this winter and when she returned to the circuit in May, she didn’t look like herself, following up a win at the Birmingham Diamond League with an 11th-place finish at Pre and 3rd in Rome in 4:04.93.

But even though she had less time to return to top form than usual with an early Worlds, Muir worked her way diligently back to fitness and ran 3:55.28 — the #3 time of her career — to earn the bronze, Britain’s first of the 2022 Worlds.

Quick Take: With such fast times up front, it’s surprising only three women broke 4:01

This race was very similar to the Pre Classic, with Kipyegon and Tsegay going 1-2 in both races in 3:52 and 3:54. With such fast times up front, you’d expect the depth to be even better than Pre, where a total of seven women broke 4:00. Tonight, only the three medalists ran under 4:01. So what happened? The chase pack went out a second faster tonight (61.1 vs. 62.2), and while that may not seem like a lot, it may have been the difference.

Fourth-placer Hailu, for example, ran her first 800 in 2:07.08 but her last 800 in 2:10.94. Her last lap was just 65.23. Johnson ran 2:07.53 for her first 800 and 2:10.73 for her second 800 (64.34 last lap). The fast first lap clearly took a toll as these women were spent by the final lap.

Quick Take: Sinclaire Johnson continues fine season with 6th-place finish. And she’s not done yet.

Sinclaire Johnson took a risk in leaving Jerry Schumacher and the Bowerman Track Club after just one season. But she’s found immediate success with Pete Julian‘s Union Athletics Club and at just 24 years old, the future is bright. Johnson knows 6th is a strong showing for her first global final but has bigger goals down the line.

“It’s pretty cool to kind of feel the way I do about my own race and feel a little bit bittersweet about a 6th place in my first world final,” Johnson said. “I think I’m in a good spot, and it’s only the beginning for me.”

Johnson is also entered in Monaco next month and could have the opportunity to better her 3:58.85 pb in that race.

MB: SINCLAIRE MF JOHNSON

Quick Take: Cory McGee said she wanted to finish somewhere in the 4th-6th range

McGee thought things could have played out differently if she was a little more conservative but was glad she went for it by running at the front of the chase pack.

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