The 22nd day of August was another evening of exciting middle-distance finals in Budapest.
As expected, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon was too strong for her opponents in the women’s 1500m final as she won a third successive world title after another great run in Budapest. Her winning time was an impressive 3:54.87 under the warm weather. This became the first gold medal for Kenya at the world championships.
Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji claimed silver in 3:55.69 ahead of Netherlands’s Sifan Hassan, who ran 3:56.00 to win the bronze medal.
Kipyegon had taken to the front just after the gun went off and controlled the race from the beginning to the end. The pace didn’t matter; she had always believed in her strong finishing kick in the last 200m. But, perhaps she just wanted to make it a relatively fast race to ensure there would be no pushing and jostling in the last lap.
Her perceived main rival, Sifan Hassan, ran from behind as usual. Like Kipyegon, she also has a great finishing speed and enough endurance to last a marathon. A combination that makes her difficult to beat. But, Welteji hung firmly behind Kipyegon in the last lap as Hassan gradually fought her way to the front on the back straight. Kipyegon extended the lead at the 200m mark and looked clear ahead of the rest as Hassan and Welteji were engaged in the battle for the silver position that eventually went to the 21-year-old Ethiopian.
In another one of the biggest finals of the evening, the contest for gold in the men’s 3000m was set to be a big battle between Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma and Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali. The race didn’t disappoint.
After a tough battle, the gold medal finally went to El Bakkali as he ran 8:03.53 to win against Girma’s 8:05.44.
Soufiane El Bakkali sweeps by Lamencha Girma, photo by Kevin Morris
There was still one medal missing to fill all the blank spaces on the medal table column for Kenya, and with three Kenyans trailing the two leaders, it was sure to come. There was a different race for the bronze medal between Leornard Bett, who had led most of the race’s early stages, and Abraham Kibiwot. Kibiwot won it in 8:11.98.
El Bakkalli’s plan appeared to have been to sit behind Girma and await his time to kick hard. The two moved gradually towards the front as Kenya’s Bett kept the lead. With three laps to go, Bett, Girma, Kibiwott, and Simon Koech were all at the front.
On the penultimate water jump, Girma made the move. El Bakkali followed, with Kibiwott leading the two other Kenyans in the chasing pack as they hit the bell.
Everything would go as planned for El Bakkali, but for the Ethiopian world record holder who set a world record of 7:52.11 about two months ago, he may wish he had made it a faster race.