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Faith Kipyegon is in a World of Her Own, Wins 1500 at World Championships

Union Athletic Club teammates Sinclaire Johnson and Jessica Hull finished sixth and seventh respectively.

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During the women’s world champs 1500 meter race last night, one race quickly became two. There was a noticeable rift in the field after just 100 meters: Four women were running well under world record pace. Faith Kipyegon, the reigning Olympic champion from Kenya, was the favorite, but a pair of Ethiopians—Gudaf Tsegay and Freweyni Hailu—were in control, pushing the pace. Laura Muir of Great Britain was hanging on for dear life immediately behind them.

“I didn’t realize what the splits were,” Muir said of the exceptionally fast opening lap. “I thought I’m just gonna not look at the clock, just stay in contention as long as possible.”

The four went through 800 in 2:03, and Hailu fell off. The other three continued on their own while an entirely separate race was happening behind them. Athletes changing positions, quickening the pace, slowing the pace—almost as though the three out front didn’t exist.

Down the backstretch on the final lap, Kipyegon took the lead for the first time and surged dramatically. It was like she was holding a gun with only one bullet in the chamber; when it was time to shoot she wanted to make sure she wouldn’t miss. And she didn’t miss. Gold was hers and now she was just chasing a time.

Kipyegon’s personal best of 3:51.07 is the fourth fastest time ever run, and it looked like she’d eclipse it. In the end she finished in 3:52.96, the second fastest time ever run in a 1500 at the World Championships. It’s Kipyegon’s second gold medal in the event at worlds (she also won in London in 2017) and her sixth 1500m medal overall.

Tsegay finished second in 3:54.52, and Muir finished third in 3:55.28.

Then there was a six second break. Some women who hung back in the earlier stages of the race likely wished they’d have tried to go along with the leaders; nobody in the field ran a personal best.

The top American, Sinclaire Johnson, who finished sixth in 4:01.63, said, “I wish I would’ve had the guts to go with it, but I fought out there today and honestly don’t think I could’ve done anything differently.”

Johnson finished the race quickly, and over the final lap, she moved up the most positions. “You start to have that negative self-talk being so far back,” she said. “I kept trying to tell myself maybe you can pick one person off, somebody will come back to the group. You just have to reassure yourself.”

This is her first time competing at the World Championships, and Johnson recognized the talented field she was up against. “As much as all of us wanna be up there, they’re in a class of their own right now,” she said.

Johnson’s teammate on Nike’s Union Athletic Club, Australian Jessica Hull, concurred: “Back to the drawing board,” she said. Hull has been working out phenomenally this year and has never been in such good shape. Both are relatively young: Johnson and Hull are 24 and 25 respectively. Kipyegon, at this point regarded as the GOAT in the 1500, is 28.

Hull said she also resented not going with the pace. “Sometimes you just have to ask, Why not me?”

Hull wore a necklace with the number seven, and she said it’s been her lucky number and a way of connecting with her dad who coached her growing up. Together, they won seven Australian junior national championships. She placed seventh at World Juniors. She owns seven Australian national records. Today, she was seventh place.

In the split second at the beginning of the race where you have to decide to go with the pace or hang back, for Hull maybe it was decided by fate.