Know your African Star: Faith Kipyegon


By Caroly Kipkoech

Faith Kipyegon is a Kenyan middle-distance runner who was born on 10 January 1994. The double Olympic champion and world record holder was born and raised in Keringet area of Nakuru County in the Kenyan Rift Valley.

Kipyegon, specialising in the 1500m race, has etched her name in the annals of athletic history. Her outstanding achievements, including gold medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, have solidified her status as one of Kenya’s athletic treasures.  

She was introduced into the world of athletics at a young age by her teacher while still in school. During that period, she participated in local cross-country and inter-school competitions, little did Kipyegon know that it was the start of her meteoric rise to global fame.

Faith Kipyegon (229) running barefoot at the Kenya National Cross-Country Championships in 2011, where she finished second.

On 28 March 2010 at the age of 14, a barefooted Kipyegon made her international debut at the World Cross Country Championships at Myślęcinek Park in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where she competed with athletes older than her and finished fourth. The race was a clean sweep for Kenya taking up all the first four positions. Kipyegon earned a gold medal as the youngest finisher.

Conquering the track barefoot again, she participated in the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, on 20 March 2011, coming first and earning an individual gold medal. Other key highlights of her junior career include a national 1500m junior record at the Shanghai Diamond League, where she clocked 4:03.82 in April 2012. In June of the same year, Kipyegon took part in the Kenyan Junior Athletics Championships and finished third at the Kenyan Olympic Trials to secure a spot in the national team for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

At the World Junior Championships held in Spain in July 2012 , she ran a championship record again to clinch gold way ahead of the field clocking 4:04.96, beating Serbia’s Amela Terzic and Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi who took second and third positions, respectively.

Faith Kipyegon wins the 1500m race at the IAAF World Junior Championships Barcelona 2012.

Her 2013 campaign started on a high, with the young star defending her junior title at the World Cross Country Championships held in Bydgoszcz, Poland in March. On 10 May at the Diamond League meeting in Doha, Qatar, she broke for the first time the four-minute barrier in the 1500m, clocking an African U20 and Kenyan senior record of 3:56.98. 

But Kipyegon’s senior course took off after the London 2012 games. The then 18-year-old may have fallen down the pecking order at her first games as she never made it past her qualifying race, but that Olympic experience shaped her blossoming career.

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was surely the highlight of her career, making Kipyegon a world-known queen of the track. Winning gold and securing her second consecutive Olympic success in a record time of 3:53.11. That achievement also made her become the first woman in history  to win successive Olympic 1500m titles. During that year, Kipyegon’s  performances were outstanding, winning nine out of her ten races.

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon celebrates with her flag after winning the women’s 1500m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 6, 2020.

In July 2022, Kipyegon took part in the World Championships in Eugene, US. She added a gold medal to her name after running 3:52.96  beating the likes of Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay and Britain’s Laura Muir who came second and third, respectively.

Kipyegon got her 2023 campaign off to a strong start on 4 February with a dominant victory at the Sirikwa Cross Country Championships (10km) on home soil in Eldoret. In June she took part in the Golden Gala Diamond League held in Florence, Italy,  eventually achieving what was missing in her illustrious and glaring career, becoming the first woman to break the 3:50 mark in the 1500m discipline, she clocked 3:49.11. The athletics sensation then made it two world records in a span of one week, blitzing the field to set a new world record in the 5000m at the 2023 Diamond League series at Stade Charlety, France.

Faith Kipyegon reacts as she wins the Women’s 1500m event, setting a new world record of 3:49.11, during the Wanda Diamond League 2023 Golden Gala in Florence, Italy

During that race, Kipyegon was up against Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey and Ejgayehu Taye – the former held the world record heading into Paris. The Kenyan star produced a time of  14:05.20., lowering the previous record of 14:06.62 which Gidey set in October 2020.

Even as she eyes an unequalled third Olympic title at Paris 2024, Kipyegon, who is trained by Patrick Sang, the celebrated coach of marathon great Eliud Kipchoge, has set her sights on the only thing that has eluded her in her career – the 1500m world record of 3:50.07 held by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba.

Recognised as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans in 2023 by New African magazine, Kipyegon’s achievements are a testament to her enduring impact on the global arena.

 Faith Kipyegon shows the Gold medals she won in the 1500m and 5000m races at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Hungary upon arrival in the country at JKIA on August 28, 2023.

Kipyegon’s stellar performances have cemented her status as one of Kenya’s athletic treasures. Kenya’s President William Ruto bestowed upon her one of the highest civilian honours in the country, the Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart (EGH) on 12 December last year during the country’s independence day (Jamhuri Day) celebrations in recognition of her outstanding contributions.

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