One of the most dramatic events in the Herculis Monaco this year was the women’s 1,500m, a battle between Sifan Hassan and Faith Kipyegon. The final lap was run under 61 seconds and Faith Kipyegon used all that 800m speed to take Sifan Hassan down.
What will happen in Tokyo 2021?
After you read Stuart Weir’s piece, you will see that the 1,500m in
Faith Kipyegon gets better and better.
Olympic Champion 2016, World Champion 2017, she then had a baby and returned to racing in 2019, got injured, and only managed two races before the 2019 World Championships. She still managed to run 3:54.22 for a national record and silver. In 2020 she ran just five times at 800, 1000, and 1500. Five races, five wins including 1:57.68 in the 800 and that was her first 800 since 2015. Sifan Hassan ran 3:53.60 in Monaco this week but Kipyegon overtook her to win in 3:51.07. The time was exactly one second outside Genzebe Dibaba’s world record, set in Monaco 2017.
Kipyegon’s comment on the Monaco 2021 race was: “I thought I could run faster than that. I knew Sifan was going for a fast race and my goal was to run a fast race here and I thank God that it was. 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. I have a lot of pressure because the 1500m is a tactical race. Now I will train hard and hope to do my best at the Games. I came back after giving birth and I feel like a role model for the young mother out there and the young athletes. I hope to show them that when you go on maternity leave, this does not mean the end of your career. You can come back strong and win races”.
One athletics writer tweeted that she was the favorite for the Olympic 1500 and would be for the 800 too if she was entered.
Faith Kipyegon is only 27 but seems to have been around for a long time. She qualified for the London Olympics and the 2013 Moscow World Championships. She described her mindset at that time as “running absent-minded. When you are a junior, you just go to the race and run with freedom – I was still running free at that time”.
She told me that her performance in Moscow motivated her and helped her realized that she could compete in the senior category. She continues: “When I went to Beijing 2015 it was my second World Championship and I said to myself, ‘I have to do it. I have to get a medal’. Believing that I could do it gave me motivation and I just worked hard. And I got the silver medal”.
But still she did not know what to expect at the Rio Olympics: “I did not expect anything from Rio. I knew Genzebe was there, I knew Sifan was there and everyone wanted the gold medal in Rio. My coach said, ‘if you can come second in the World Championships in Beijing you can do it also in Rio – and you can win it’. So I was well prepared mentally and in training by my coach. So I went to the race and won it”.
She enjoyed being part of the Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann, Nia Ali, “Year of the mother” World Championships in Doha: “My daughter, Alyn, was born in June 2018. I took eight months off when I was feeding the baby and then started to do exercise, building up slowly. Coming back was hard – really hard. Reducing weight is not easy. I just had to make progress slowly. My management was telling me not to rush but to take it easy and that I would be back for Doha. And I did it”. Did it = national record and silver medal.
Now, with Tokyo less that 3 weeks away she seems to be in a great place.