Ethiopia to deploy strong generation to challenge Kipyegon, Chepchirchir in Riga
As Faith Kipyegon turns her attention to the mile at the World Athletics Road Running Championships Riga 23, her dream of claiming another world title is threatened by Ethiopia's strong unit.
Kipyegon has never raced on the roads, and she will be making her debut in the Latvian capital after impressive outings at the Budapest World Athletics Championship, where she claimed golds in 1500m and 5000m.
Kipyegon, who won her first global title in the U20 race at the World Cross Country Championships, has been focusing on the track in recent years.
The 29-year-old has also spoken of the possibility of one day competing in the marathon, and the Riga Championship could offer her the best step in that direction.
Kipyegon set a mile record of 4:07.64 in Monaco this year, where she posted a record seven seconds faster than the personal best of the next-fastest entrant. It’s also 20 seconds faster than the newly ratified 4:27.97 of the USA's Nikki Hiltz.
However, to make history in Riga, Kipyegon will have to beat a strong unit deployed by Kenya's arch-rival, Ethiopia.
Diribe Welteji, Freweyni Hailu, and Hirut Meshesha represent a new generation of Ethiopian runners, and all have been listed on the Riga team.
Kipyegon competed against Welteji in the 1500m in Budapest, and the Ethiopian won silver in 3:55.69 as the Kenyan impressively emerged as the winner.
Welteji first began her career as an 800m runner, and at her first ever international competition in 2018, she won gold at the Tampere World U20 Championships.
In 2021, Welteji started focusing on the 1500m but was chosen for 800m during the Oregon Championship. She finished fifth and missed a podium slot.
At the Diamond League final in Eugene, she lowered her personal best, finishing second in 3:53.93. Again, Kipyegon saw her off as the triple world record holder who emerged victorious.
Hailu clocked a personal best of 3:55.68 as she ended her 2023 campaign on an impressive note.
On the other hand, Meshesha, who, just like Welteji, started off as an 800m runner before moving up in distance, earned world U18 bronze over 800m in 2017 and African U18 gold in 2018 before winning at the African Games in 2019.
She started her first year as a senior runner in 1500m, where she won her first proper race at the distance at the World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Madrid. She went on to clock 3:59.43 outdoors that season, reducing it to 3:57.30 in 2022 and then to 3:54.87 earlier in 2023.
However, she failed to make it into the 1500m final in Budapest. She posted sub-four-minute clockings in Brussels, Eugene, and Riga offers her a chance to end the year on an even better positive note.
Meanwhile, Nelly Chepchirchir will give Kipyegon company as they battle the Ethiopian unit. Chepchirchir broke 4:00 for 1500m on five occasions and placed fifth at the World Championships before she clocked a personal best of 3:56.72.