Thursday, January 6 2022
Faith Kipyegon aims for 1,500m world record after winning back-to-back Olympic gold

When Faith Kipyegon won gold in the 1500m in Tokyo in August, the victory had added resonance as she became only the third athlete to retain an Olympic title after becoming a mother between the Games.

After the birth of her first child, Alyn, in 2018, the Kenyan took a 21-month hiatus before returning to the sport with renewed motivation.

In Tokyo 2020, she joined Australian Shirley Strickland and Cameroonian triple jump Françoise Mbango Etone to achieve the rare feat.

“That was what I had in mind – I said I would defend my title and run as a mom,” Kipyegon told BBC Sport Africa.

“Bringing the gold medal as a mom will also inspire my daughter. It was really something special for me to defend my title.”

She did it in Olympic record time too.

Before heading to Japan, Kipyegon said she would carry two flags – one for Kenya and one for Alyn.

“I dedicated the medal to him,” said the BBC nominee African Sports Personality of the Year. “And when I landed in Eldoretto, she greeted me, held the medal and said ‘This is my medal’ – that was something special.”

Kipyegon is reveling in her motherhood, so much so that she is ready to tackle an area that few athletes raise by deliberately failing to cover up her stretch marks during competition.

“I am proud to be a mother, to be a woman to be a woman. I am proud of my child. Stretch marks are something that happens and that you cannot hide [them]. Just be proud, just be who you are. ”

“A rare type of athlete”

BBC ASPOTY 2021: Faith Kipyegon

Despite her country’s sparkling athletic history, which has long been littered with Olympic and world titles, Kipyegon is the only Kenyan woman to ever win. consecutive Olympic gold medals.

“She has a unique character,” legendary track coach Patrick Sang, who called her his “little superstar”, told BBC Sport Africa with a beaming smile.

“When she walks into a group of people, even if the environment is dark, in no time you see people laughing. She’s talented in so many ways and is a rare type of athlete in today’s world. ”

His trainer for the past three years, Sang sees parallels between Kipyegon and great marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, another of his managers, saying the two are not afraid of hard work.

Her athletics resume is as impressive as that of her compatriot, Kenya’s golden girl having won all world titles in the 1,500m; world juniors, world juniors, Commonwealth, World’s Championships and the Olympics – now twice.

She enjoys the distance because of her “combination of speed and dynamism”, which she embodied by setting a new Olympic record of 3: 53.11 in Tokyo – which she says surprised her as much as the gold itself.

“I knew all the athletes were very strong,” she said. “It was tough. You go there as a mom, you run with still young athletes but your daughter is watching you at home. You just think about a lot of things.”

Faith Kipyegon and her daughter Alyn
Kipyegon’s daughter Alyn inspired her Tokyo triumph

Kipyegon’s fame is the culmination of a journey that began as a child, when she started playing soccer in elementary school before moving on to running.

In high school, she juggled athletics and homework, carrying books to competitions where she announced herself as one of the best athletes to come by becoming the World Junior Cross Country Champion – twice – and also winning the youth and junior world titles.

Not all juniors reflect such dominance on the senior scene, but Kipyegon has done so in a compelling way.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “It’s about being disciplined and working on your career – and I wanted to be a successful athlete.”

Sang, meanwhile, expects Kipyegon to remain at the elite level for another decade.

“During these 10 years, you are going to see great performances from him,” he says proudly. “She hasn’t even scratched the surface of her talent.”

World record before going up?

Kipyegon is a rare runner and although she faces much younger rivals – and childless – she has proven again this year why she is quite simply the best miler in the world.

Out of the 10 races she competed, she lost only one – to Sifan Hassan at the Diamond League in Florence.

“When I put on my athletic shoes, I feel something good,” she said.

“Running means a lot to me. It was my passion since I was young and growing up, it changed my life and my status.

“It’s great to be a champion. You have to stay at a level where you stay a champion. It all starts with discipline.”

Kipyegon got her revenge on Dutchwoman Hassan by winning the 2021 Diamond League trophy in the 1,500m, a success she places above her Olympic gold given her speed.

Faith Kipyegon with the Diamond League Trophy
Kipyegon celebrates with his Diamond League trophy at the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich in September

“I achieved a personal best (3: 51.07),” she explains. “I was almost breaking a world record but unfortunately it was not that day. Maybe I hope to do it next time.”

Kipyegon’s outing in Monaco, which placed his fourth overall on the 1,500m all-time list, was only one second off Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba’s world record.

“I’m really working on reducing my time in the 1500m before moving on to the 5000m,” she said.

Despite all of his exploits, Kipyegon did not get carried away by his success.

“What helps me stay the way I am is the background I come from – a humble family. We always stay humble and love everyone.”

Despite her friendly nature, this always-smiling mother is extremely serious when discussing the legacy she wants to leave.

“I want to empower women to learn that there is a woman called Faith who did her best in her event. I want to motivate them and show them that anything is possible in life.”

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