Kipyegon’s third-world record puts her on the same pedestal as the all-time greats


How do you measure greatness in Sports? It’s an age-old question that seems to resonate every time a world-class athlete churns out another magnificent performance in his or her discipline. In a sport like athletics, the criteria become all the more difficult to prune down considering the range of discipline contested for by athletes. 

Is the 100m world record much easier to break than the 5000m world record? Or is the marathon world record much more feasible to take down than the Long jump? The reality is the media and fans have a way of shaping this perspective, and whichever discipline gets much attention is more likely to see the conversation stir toward who the greatest athlete of all time is. 

Faith Kipyegon, Wanda Diamond League Athletics Meeting
Herculis EBS
July 21, 2023, Monaco, photo by Kevin Morris.

But there are some things that are irrefutable and glaring even to the naked eye. Nobody breaks three records and isn’t in the conversation about being the greatest athlete of all time. Cue in the great Faith Kipyegon. 49 days were what it took her to break the women’s 1500m, 5000m, and, more recently, the Mile world record. On the surface, it looks like just another day in the office, but never in the history of Track and Field has an athlete broken three world records in a calendar year. It’s just outright ridiculous, and we a lucky to be witnessing it. 

“I do not know how I am doing this because it just keeps going really in a good way,” she said, according to meet organizers. “When I started this season, my goal was to just break the 1500m world record,” Kipyegon said after clocking a newly-minted 4:07.64s for a new Mile record. 

Faith Kipyegon, Wanda Diamond League Athletics Meeting
Herculis EBS
July 21, 2023, Monaco, photo by Kevin Morris

Her sojourn to this level started way back in 2010 when as a 16-year-old, the then barefooted Kipyegon placed fourth at the world cross-country junior championships race. It’s a herculean task predicting greatness, but when Jenny Simpson (America’s greatest miler) nicknamed her the “sniper” for her ability to run people down in the final lap, we began to see signs that she was destined for greatness. And in Monaco, she continues to write new tales of beautiful chapters that only great before her have opened.

Usain Bolt, Tirunesh Dibaba, Eliud Kipchoge, Haile Gebrselassie, and a host of others have all opened such chapters during their careers. Some can only dream of reading it. Even their fellow pairs can only hope it propels them to a new Personal Best, Area Record, or any sort of the plenty records Track and Field has invented to gauge the performance of athletes. 

Wanda Diamond League Athletics Meeting
Herculis EBS
July 21, 2023, Monaco

Here in Monaco, all twelve of the athletes that finished the race ran a Personal Best, National Record, or Area Record. This share display of unparalleled running is what makes Kipyegon an outright great. There are those that will throw in the odd name of Sifan Hassan after her triple treat at the Tokyo Games, in which she won two golds in the 5000m and 10000m, but Kipyegon took her down in the 1500m.

In June, Kipyegon already showcased her prowess by setting new world records in the 1500 meters and 5000 meters events on consecutive Fridays.

Looking ahead, Kipyegon is anticipated to participate in the upcoming world championships, competing in both the 1500m and 5000m races. It is worth noting that the mile event is not included in the Olympic or world championships program.

Faith Kiypegon, Wanda Diamond League Athletics Meeting
Herculis EBS
July 21, 2023, Monaco, photo by Kevin Morris

Furthermore, it is a historical prospect as no woman has achieved victory in both the 1500m and 5000m races at a single world championship or Olympics. These feats are surely not beyond her. Maybe another Olympic Gold to add to the two she won in Rio and Tokyo might suffice, but at this point, there is really nothing else for her to prove.

Is this her peak? We might never know, considering she had taken over a year out in 2018 to put to bed. Five years down the line, the Kenyan is a world record holder in three events. You couldn’t have written a better script. At 29 years,  it’s safe to say Kipyegon has completed the Sport. 

Faith Kipyegon takes gold at the women’s 1,500 meters, Day 4, World Athletics Champs, photo by Kevin Morris.

What next for her? A tilt at the road races, as her rivals Hassan and Letesenbet Gidey ventured into the marathon, or did she just stick to the track?  No doubt, there is money to be made on the road. Kipyegon is being coached by the legendary Patrick Sang- the man that molded Kipchoge to reach his current thresholds, and she might just be thinking about it. 

But that’s the thing with sports. There is always another peak to be conquered. What Kipyegon decides to do next will determine which chapter she writes next in her folklore. For now, let’s savor her greatness.