Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
For the last nine days, the best athletes from around the world have stunned track and field audiences at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Between the redemption stories, comebacks, and shocking upsets, there was no shortage of excitement at the National Athletics Centre.
Here are our seven favorite moments from the women’s competition.
1. Heptathlon Podium Decided in the Final Moments
With seven events contested over two days, it’s rare that the heptathlon medals are determined in the last and arguably toughest event, the 800 meters. But that’s exactly what happened in Budapest.
Heading into the track race, Katarina Johnson-Thompson of Great Britain was in the lead after overtaking American Anna Hall in the standings with a 6.54-meter long jump and a 46.14-meter javelin throw on day two. Hall dropped to third while battling an injury that flared up from a training accident a few weeks beforehand, but she didn’t go down without a fight.
The former University of Florida standout led the 800 meters wire-to-wire, setting a blazing early pace in an attempt to regain her leader status. As the points stood, Johnson-Thompson needed to finish within three seconds of her rival in order to claim gold.
Pushing through fatigue over the last lap, Johnson-Thomspon managed to find a second wind to close the gap on Hall while the cheers of a roaring crowd urged her into the homestretch. The 2019 world champion’s runner-up finish in 2:05.63 improved on her personal best and secured another gold medal with 6,740 points, marking a major comeback two years after tearing her right calf muscle at the Tokyo Olympics.
After the competition, Johnson-Thompson was asked if she believed she’d be champion again. “No. I didn’t,” she replied. “I just thought I’d fade into the background and be one of those athletes who is just there to make up the numbers.”
Hall’s final time of 2:04.09 moved her up to silver with 6,720 points. While she didn’t meet her goal of breaking Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s world heptathlon record of 7,291 points, she prevailed over injury to claim another world championship medal.
2. Sha’Carri Richardson Snags Gold From Lane 9
The U.S. champion triumphed in a thrilling women’s 100-meter final. Running from lane nine after qualifying based on time in the semifinal, Sha’Carri Richardson powered down the last 40 meters to break the championship record and beat Jamaican rivals Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for gold.
Throwing her hands up just before the finish line, Richardson looked in shock at the scoreboard, which revealed her winning time of 10.65. Her performance is now tied for the fifth-fastest time ever in the event.
“This journey for me, from since I first came on the professional level [in 2019] to now is just knowing that no matter what happens, you never lose sight of yourself,” she told NBC Sports. “Never lose sight of your faith. Always remember why you started.”
The world championship gold is a long-time coming for the 23-year-old, who burst onto the global scene when she shattered the collegiate record as a freshman running for Louisiana State University. In July, she won her first national title after her 2021 win was removed from the records when she tested positive for marijuana. She failed to make the world championship team in 2022 but has seen a brilliant resurgence this year.
3. Faith Kipyegon Puts on a Clinic in the Women’s 1,500 and 5,000 Meters
The pre-race favorite delivered when it mattered most. Capping off a season that’s already included three world records, Faith Kipyegon claimed her third world championship title in the 1,500 meters and first title in the 5,000 meters.
The Kenyan runner took control of the 1,500-meter race from the gun with an opening split of 2:11.78 for the first 800 meters. By the time they reached the bell lap, none of her competitors could match her killer closing speed.
With room to spare, Kipyegon won in 3:54.87, well ahead of silver medalist Diribe Welteji of Ethiopia (3:55.69), and bronze medalist Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands (3:56.00). After breaking the world record in the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, and the mile earlier this summer, Kipyegon’s gold medal continued to solidify her status as the greatest women’s distance runner of all-time.
According to World Athletics, she is the first woman to win three world 1,500-meter titles. “This is a great season for me: breaking world records and becoming a world champion here, defending my title,” Kipyegon told reporters in Budapest. “I told myself, ‘You are the strongest, just keep going.’”
On Saturday, her medal collection grew with another title in the 5,000 meters. Highlighted by a stunning kick over the last 400 meters, including a blazing final 200-meter split of 27.12 seconds, Kipyegon won the long-distance crown in 14:53.88 to claim gold once again over Hassan (14:54.11) and Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet (14:54.33).
Kipyegon is the first athlete ever to win both the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters at the same championship.
4. Femke Bol Overcomes Fall to Win 400-meter Hurdles and 4×400-Meter Relay
The world championships started with heartbreak for Femke Bol, who fell in the final moments of the mixed 4×400-meter relay and relinquished the lead for the Dutch team. Team USA went on to break the world record and win gold while the Netherlands was disqualified as a result of Bol dropping the baton.
But just five days later, the star hurdler made a historic comeback in pursuit of redemption. In the women’s 400-meter hurdles final, Bol dominated the race with a winning time of 51.70. The stunning performance is Bol’s first gold after earning five medals at previous global championships.
On the last day of the world championships, Bol struck gold once again in the 4×400-meter relay. Running as the anchor leg for the Netherlands, the star hurdler moved from third to first on the homestretch to claim the national team’s first ever world championship title in the event.
5. Shericka Jackson Stuns with Second-fastest 200 of All Time
No one could challenge the Jamaican sprint sensation in her signature event. Just days after earning silver in the 100 meters, Jackson dominated the women’s 200-meter final with a winning time of 21.41. She broke the championship record and was just seven hundredths of a second shy of lowering the 21.34 world record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988.
Behind Jackson, Team USA swept the last two podium positions. Olympic bronze medalist Gabby Thomas earned silver in 21.81, and Sha’Carri Richardson snagged bronze in 21.92, a new personal best after winning the 100-meter title.
6. Team USA Earns Redemption in the 4×100-Meter Relay
The United States relay teams got off to a disappointing start with the women’s 4×400-meter squad getting knocked out of the heats after a disastrous handoff. But redemption came in the shorter sprint about two hours later.
The team of Tamari Davis, Twanisha Terry, Gabby Thomas, and Sha’Carri Richardson held off a hard-charging Jamaican squad to claim gold in the event. Team USA’s winning time of 41.03 is a championship record and completed an American sweep after the men’s 4×100-meter team won gold as well. It’s the first time since 2007 that both the American men and women have won the sprint relay at the world championships or Olympics.
7. Mary Moraa Stuns in the Women’s 800 Meters
Heading into the 800-meter final, all eyes were on reigning Olympic and world champion Athing Mu, but a rising star ultimately came out on top.
A year after earning bronze, Mary Moraa upset the Olympic gold and silver medalists to win her first world title in the event. On the homestretch, the Kenyan middle-distance runner unleashed a killer kick to overtake Mu in the final 40 meters after the American record-holder led for the majority of the race. Shortly after Moraa passed the U.S. champion, Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain took advantage of the space Mu left on the inside of lane 1 to sprint ahead.
Moraa’s winning time of 1:56.03 is a personal best. Hodgkinson earned her third consecutive global championship silver in 1:56.34. Mu held on for bronze in 1:56.61. The third-place finish marks Mu’s first loss in a global championship final in three years.
Moraa, who was orphaned as a toddler, has enjoyed an undefeated breakthrough season this year after finishing third to Mu and Hodgkinson at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.