By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
NOTE: This story was written remotely –Ed.
PARIS (09-Jun) — In a spectacular display of distance running on the blue track at the Stade Sébastien Charléty, two World Athletics records and one world best were broken at the Meeting de Paris, the fourth stop of the 2023 Wanda Diamond League. On a warm and still night, about 20,000 spectators got to see Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen break Daniel Komen’s 1997 two-mile world best of 7:58.61, clocking 7:54.10; Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon take down Letesenbet Gidey’s 2020 5000m world record of 14:06.62, running 14:05.20; and Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma break Saif Saeed Shaheen’s 2004 steeplechase world record of 7:53.63, clocking 7:52.11.
“We’re out of superlatives,” said veteran British commentator Chris Dennis as he closed today’s broadcast.
Ingebrigtsen’s race came first and was actually not part of the meet’s official Diamond League program. Starting on the far outside and wearing Nike’s special black and white kit given only to world champions, Ingebrigtsen got behind the race’s two pacemakers, France’s Benoit Campion and Kenya’s Kyumbe Munguti. For a short time, the rest of the pack stayed within range, but after passing through the first mile right on four minutes (3:58.9 at 1600m), it was only Ingebrigtsen and his second pacer, Munguti, who were still at the front. Munguti made it through five laps before pulling out, and Ingebrigtsen had to run alone from there. The crowd was with him.
“The public was amazing; without their help, it would have been more difficult,” he said in his mixed zone interview.
The Norwegian pulled ahead of the green Wave Light indicators, which illuminated the world’s best pace along the inside rail. According to the transponder timing system, which recorded 400-meter laps and not 440-yard splits, Ingebrigtsen ran 3:52.2 from 1600m to 3200m, essentially the second mile of the race. That sealed the record.
“Being able to make this record feels amazing,” Ingebrigtsen said in his mixed-zone interview. “It is my first world’s best outdoors. The pace felt very smooth for me, coming out of the 1500m. I would say it was a good race.” He added: “I was a bit surprised about the time in the end.”
Kipyegon’s race came 34 minutes later, and the reigning Olympic and world champion had a real battle on her hands. Current world record holder Gidey lined up next to Kipyegon, and the pair took full advantage of the three pacemakers the meeting organizers provided: Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech, Sweden’s Sarah Lahti, and Ethiopia’s Tigist Ketema. Lahti took the first pull, hitting one kilometer in 2:52.31 before Ketema and Chepkoech took over. Chepkoech, the world record holder for the steeplechase, was the last pacer to remain on the track, and she got the duo through 3000m in 8:31.91. The record attempt was on.
Gidey took the lead through 4000m (11:21.93), and less than a minute later, Kipyegon passed her rival on the backstretch and took the lead for the first time in the race. Gidey stayed right on her heels, but Kipyegon’s final lap of 61.1 seconds was just too fast for the Ethiopian. Kipyegon, who set the world 1500m record of 3:49.11 a week ago in Florence, sat on the track looking dazed after she finished, surrounded by photographers.
“No, I did not think about the world record; I do not know how I made it,” Kipyegon said in her post-race interview. “I just focused on the green light and tried to stay relaxed and enjoy the race. I just did the race and wanted to see what happens; when I saw that it was a world record, I was so surprised.”
Gidey finished second in 14:07.94, the third-fastest time in history, and another Ethiopian, Ejgayehu Taye, got third in 14:13.31. Britain’s Laura Muir did not run with the main group and finished 11th in 14:48.14. However, she was comfortably under the World Athletics Championships entry standard of 14:57.00.
Girma’s race was the penultimate track event of the meeting. Like Ingebrigtsen, his race turned into a one-man time trial early in the second kilometer after he passed the second pacemaker, El Mehdi Aboujanah of Spain, with 3:30 showing on the clock. Girma passed through two kilometers in 5:12.5, well ahead of the 5:18 that Shaheen recorded some 19 years ago. He seemed to have a comfortable gap on the green Wave Lights, but with about 300 meters to go, the lights got closer to his heels, and the 2021 Olympic silver medalist started to pick up the pace. In the end, he finished 1.52 seconds inside of Shaheen’s mark.
“I’m feeling so happy,” said Girma, who ran a World Athletics indoor 3000m record of 7:23.81 last February in Liévin. “Happy and very proud. I felt so fast during the race, so confident. The world record is not a surprise, I planned to beat it tonight in Paris. It’s a result of a full determination.”
In the second place, Japanese college student Ryuji Miura bettered his own national record by just 1/100th of a second, running 8:09.91.
Although they did not produce world records, the two 800m races were also excellent, resulting in the fast world leads that may hold up for the entire season.
Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson opened her outdoor campaign with a blistering 1:55.77, a new British record. Wearing a green and grey Nike kit with pink spikes, the reigning European 800m champion was pleasantly surprised with her result.
“I am a little bit shocked that I ran so fast,” said the 21-year-old. “Paris, next year, I will definitely be back.”
Veterans Ajee’ Wilson of the United States and Natoya Goule of Jamaica finished second and third in 1:58.16 and 1:58.23, respectively, both season’s bests. Nine women broke at 2:00.00.
In the men’s two-lap race, which closed the meeting, an astonishing seven athletes broke 1:44. The fastest was Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi, who, in a blanket sprint, edged Canada’s Marco Arop, 1:43.27 to 1:43.30. Algeria’s Slimane Moula took third in 1:43.38, just ahead of his compatriot Djamel Sedjati (1:43.40).
“I have a good finishing kick,” said Wanyonyi, 18, who passed Arop with about 10 meters to go.
Reigning Olympic and world champion Emmanuel Korir of Kenya was never in contention today and finished 10th and last in 1:47.71.
The Wanda Diamond League continues in Oslo on June 15 with the Bislett Games.