World Athletics’ 2023 Athlete of the Year: Just give it to Faith Kipyegon already!

Faith Kipyegon after crossing the finish line in a new WR

ATHLETICS World Athletics’ 2023 Athlete of the Year: Just give it to Faith Kipyegon already!

Joel Omotto 06:32 - 28.07.2023

The World Championships will shape the destiny of the prestigious award but it is hard to look beyond the Kenyan triple world record holder even before the trip to Budapest.

World Athletics will announce its nominees for the prestigious World Athlete of the Year in October, seeking to reward the globe’s most outstanding athletes of 2023 in November.

Being a World Championship year, what will happen in Budapest next month will have a big say on the destiny of the prestigious award but what we have witnessed so far should settle the debate on who emerges the best female athlete of 2023.

In just under two months, Faith Kipyegon has etched her name into the annals of history by breaking three world records and what’s more remarkable, she has done it in three different races.

First, Kipyegon broke the 1,500m world record at the Florence Diamond League on June 2 after running 3:49.11 to become the first woman in history to break the 3:50 barrier in the discipline.

The 29-year-old sliced almost a second from Dibaba's mark (3:50.07) while running a big negative split in her specialty and while the world celebrated her, righty calling her the best middle-distance runner in history, she had more up her sleeves.

A week later in Paris, she did it again in the 5,000m, becoming the first ever athlete to break two world records in one Diamond League season. Kipyegon timed 14:05.20 to beat Letesenbet Gidey's 5,000m world standard of 14:06.62 set in 2020.

The crowning glory came last Friday in Monaco where the 29-year-old delivered a third world record in as many Diamond League performances to complete a historic hat-trick.

She crossed the line victorious in the women's mile in a time of 4:07.64, almost a full five seconds faster than the previous world record which Sifan Hassan had set in the same stadium at the Monaco Diamond League four years earlier.

It was also the fourth Diamond League race she was winning this year after the victory at the season-opener in Doha. Kipyegon is set to double in 1,500m and 5,000m at the World Championships and few can rule her out of winning gold, especially in the four-and-a-half lap race, which is her bread and butter.

Ordinarily, one world record plus Olympics or World Championship gold should be enough to put you in contention for the prestigious award but with three world records even before the global event, Kipyegon is a shoo-in for the gong.

Eliud Kipchoge and David Rudisha are the only Kenyans to have won the award, the former claiming the last two after his world record at the Berlin Marathon, while the latter claimed it in 2012 after breaking the 800m world record as he won the London Olympics gold.

That precedent should put Kipyegon in good stead although her fans, and Kenyans in general, are wary of lighting striking twice after Vivian Cheruiyot harshly lost out on the 2011 award to Australian Sally Pearson despite winning gold in both 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

However, at the moment, Kipyegon’s rivals for the award appear to be ‘lightweights’ in the grand scheme of things with London Marathon champion Sifan Hassan, American sprint sensation Sha’Carri Richardson, and Ivorian sprinter Marie-Josee Ta Lou the most consistent ones in the Diamond League but they will have to top up with World Championships gold and word record to topple her.

Over to you, World Athletics.