Riga’s mile melee
In the world of athletics, Kenyan athletes have continually demonstrated their prowess, and 2023 has been no exception, as Faith Kipyegon, a name synonymous with speed and determination, has been rewriting records and breaking barriers with her remarkable performances.
At just 29 years old, Kipyegon has shown that she doesn’t shy away from the unknown and, earlier this year, she shattered the 5000m world record, despite having raced over this distance only twice, eight years prior. Her fearless approach led to her setting her second of three track world records in 2023.
Notably, she clinched gold in both the 1500m and 5000m at the World Championships in Budapest.
Kipyegon’s versatility across different terrains and distances led to her securing her first global title back in 2011 in the U20 race at the World Cross Country Championships, successfully defending it two years later. While her primary focus has been on the track, she has often spoken about her eventual move to road racing and the marathon. Her appearance in Riga marks the initial step in this ambitious plan.
The clear favourite
Her track mile world record of 4:07.64, set in Monaco, leaves her seven seconds ahead of her closest competitor (Clara Mageean). Furthermore, it’s a staggering 20 seconds faster than the official road mile world record (USA’s Nikki Hiltz), firmly establishing her as a frontrunner in Riga.
However, the competition is fierce, and Ethiopia has assembled a formidable trio of middle-distance runners. Diribe Welteji, who narrowly missed out on gold in Budapest, has been in incredible form, setting a personal best of 3:53.93 in the Diamond League Final. World indoor bronze medallist Hirut Meshesha and versatile Freweyni Hailu, with PBs across various distances, also pose a significant threat.
Faith Kipyegon won’t be alone in her quest for a medal for Kenya, as the young Nelly Chepchirchir has made her mark this year with impressive performances, including a sub-4:00 time in the 1500m.
Men’s race contenders
Switching gears to the men’s field, the Kenyan sensation Reynold Cheruiyot, despite still being an U20 athlete, has ventured into senior international competition in 2023. His achievements include a world U20 title in the 1500m and silver at the U20 race in the World Cross Country Championships. Cheruiyot’s rapid progression has seen him clock an impressive 3:30.30 in the 1500m, placing him fifth on the world U20 all-time list.
Furthermore, Ethiopian runners Teddese Lemi and Melkeneh Azize have consistently shown their speed and prowess. Lemi has a history of success, including victories in the mixed relay at the 2019 World Cross, and Azize, at just 18 years old, has already made waves in the world of middle-distance running.
Sam Prakel from the United States boasts a ratified road mile world record, showcasing his capabilities in this unique discipline. Hobbs Kessler, another American, holds impressive records and recently achieved a personal best of 3:32.61 in the 1500m.
South Africa’s Ryan Mphahlele has displayed exceptional versatility, excelling in various disciplines, including road races, cross country, and the track. His record-breaking performances in the 1500m and road 5km attest to his talent.
Kenya’s Kyumbe Munguti, Italy’s Mohad Abdikadar Sheik Ali, and Australia’s Matthew Ramsden are among the other potential contenders who round out this highly competitive field.