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Previews13 Aug 2023

WCH Budapest 23 preview: 1500m


Faith Kipyegon and Jakob Ingebrigtsen in action at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)

Women's 1500m

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You have to go back to 10 June 2021 to find the last time Faith Kipyegon was beaten in a 1500m race – on that occasion by Sifan Hassan in the Florence Diamond League meeting. The prospects of it happening at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 would appear to be on the remote side of unlikely.

Barring illness, injury or a mid-race fall, it is difficult to imagine anyone preventing the Kenyan sensation of the 2023 track and field season from becoming the first woman to complete a hattrick of world 1500m titles – and, for that matter, from proceeding to become the first woman to accomplish the 1500m-5000m double.

The clock has been the 2017 and 2022 champion’s only rival throughout the northern hemisphere summer and, even then, the old marks in the world record book have been no match for the 29-year-old.

As if becoming the first woman to break the 3:50 barrier for 1500m, with 3:49.11 in Florence on 2 June, wasn’t enough, Kipyegon slashed more than four seconds off Hassan’s mile record with a stunning 4:07.64 in Monaco on 21 July – matching New Zealander Jack Lovelock’s men’s world record time at Princeton in 1933. Then, of course, there was also the 14:05.20 world record at 5000m in Paris in between.

In the 1500m in Florence, Kipyegon won by 7.09 from Laura Muir, the Briton who took Olympic silver in Tokyo and world bronze behind the Kenyan and Ethiopia’s world indoor record-holder Gudaf Tsegay in Oregon last year. In the mile in Monaco, she finished 6.94 clear of Ireland’s European and Commonwealth silver medallist Ciara Mageean, who broke Sonia O’Sullivan’s 29-year-old national record with a time of 4:14.58.

Laura Muir follows Faith Kipyegon in Oregon

Laura Muir follows Faith Kipyegon in Oregon (© Getty Images)

It would seem that the rest will be running for silver and bronze at best in Budapest.

Tsegay, next fastest in the 2023 world list with 3:54.03, is concentrating on the 5000m and 10,000m, but the Ethiopian challenge is still mightily strong.

World indoor bronze medallist Hirut Meshesha (3:54.87) and world U20 champion Birke Haylom (3:54.93) were first and second in big PBs in the Silesia Diamond League meeting and are next quickest this year. The 17-year-old Haylom broke Kipyegon’s world U20 record in Poland.

Diribe Welteji, fourth in the 800m in Oregon last year, finished third in Silesia in 3.55.08. The entry list also includes Frewenyi Hailu, who was second in Rabat in 3.57.65, but she is likely to be the Ethiopian reserve.

As well as Mageean and Muir, the Australians Linden Hall and Jess Hull and US duo Cory Ann McGee and Nikki Hiltz could also feature. And then there is Hassan.

The 30-year-old is not quite the flying Dutchwoman who achieved the stunning 1500m-10,000m double in Doha four years ago, or who plundered 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. The toll of that Olympic treble challenge and preparing for her marathon debut, which she won in thrilling fashion in London in April, has clearly taken the edge off her speed.

Still, even when being outkicked by Tsegay and Beatrice Chebet in the London Diamond League 5000m on 23 July, she took third place in 14:13.42, a European record. Though the 5000m and 10,000m are her better medal bests in Budapest, she is also entered for the 1500m.


Men's 1500m

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Jakob Ingebrigtsen has been this way before, of course: heading into the heat of major championship battle as the seemingly invincible favourite for the 1500m.

Twice in the course of 2022, the princely Norwegian came unstuck in pursuit of a first world title at the distance. At the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, he was beaten by the finishing speed of Samuel Tefera and the effects of Covid. Then, at the outdoor World Championships in Oregon, he was undone by Jake Wightman’s inspired tactical masterclass.

Could the Ingebrigtsen armour be pierced for a third time in Budapest? The prospects would appear to be remote.

For one thing, he is a year older and race-wiser, at 22. For another, he happens to be quicker, having improved his European record to 3:27.95 in the Oslo Diamond League in June and then to 3:27.14 in Chorzow on 16 July.

The 2023 Ingebrigtsen appears to be even more of a class apart from his rivals. In Oslo he finished 0.94 ahead of his closest pursuer, Mohamed Katir, the Spaniard who took the bronze medal behind him in Eugene last year and who, like him, will also be contesting the 5000m in Budapest.

In Silesia he crossed the line a massive 1.97 clear of runner-up Abel Kipsang, the Kenyan who finished third in last year’s world indoor final clocking a lifetime best of 3:29.11.

Abel Kipsang at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade

Abel Kipsang at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade (© Getty Images)

Ingebrigtsen looked imperious in Poland, as indeed he had in setting a world two mile best of 7:54.10 in Paris in June. And, in Budapest, he will be fuelled by the desire to finally claim a world title in what he still considers to be his number one event.

He struck Olympic 1500m gold in Tokyo, of course, and bounced back from his 1500m defeat in Oregon last year to claim the world 5000m title, but his 1500m record at world championships reads: world U20 second place, 2018; world outdoor fourth place, 2019; world indoor second place, 2022; world outdoor second place, 2022.

“With the 1500m being my main event, I wasn’t satisfied with the two silver medals in 2022,” Ingebrigtsen confessed. “I would love to become a world champion in my event.”

In terms of possible threats, Wightman will be absent because of injury. Katir, second on the 2023 world list, has beaten Ingebrigtsen before at 1500m. That was at the 2021 Monaco Diamond League meeting, when the Spaniard finished second and the Norwegian third behind the victorious Timothy Cheruiyot, the 2019 world champion and Tokyo Olympic silver medallist.

Cheruiyot has shown flashes of form this year, winning the Kenyan trials in a sprint finish from Kipsang and finishing fourth in Oslo behind Ingebrigtsen, Katir and US champion Yared Nuguse for fourth place on the 2023 world list, with 3:29.08.

Nuguse, who clocked a US record of 3:29.02 in Oslo, has no international experience but showed another glimpse of his talent with a fine tactical victory at the London Diamond League. Ingebrigtsen’s compatriot and training partner Narve Gilje Nordas finished runner-up in London in 3:29.47, while Spain’s Mario Garcia (3:29.18), the emerging Frenchman Azeddine Habz (3:29.26) and Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr (3:29.64) have all ducked under 3:30 this season.

Other possible podium contenders include Kenya’s world U20 champion Reynold Cheruiyot, who finished third in Silesia, plus 2017 European indoor 3000m champion Adel Mechaal, who got the better of Katir to win an epic battle for the Spanish title, new Irish record-holder Andrew Coscoran and the fast-finishing Brit Neil Gourley, runner-up to Ingebrigtsen at the European Indoor Championships in March.

Simon Turnbull for World Athletics

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