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Fast Women: Faith Kipyegon makes history, again
Athing Mu's spikes steal the show.
Issue 253, sponsored by New Balance
This is a bonus newsletter covering the World Athletics Championships, which are currently taking place in Budapest. After this, Fast Women will return to its normal Monday schedule.
With a blazing kick, Faith Kipyegon becomes a three-time world champion
With 500m remaining in the world championships 1500m final, Kara Goucher said on the NBC broadcast, “My heart is beating out of my chest, because at this point, every single woman has a chance to win this race.” And I said to myself, “No, they don’t.” I know what she meant—everyone was more or less still right there in the lead pack. But only some of them have the turbo speed that’s required to win races among the world’s best these days. And no one has quite as much of it as Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon.
Kipyegon, who won in 3:54.87, blasted her last 400m in an incredible 56.63 seconds. And she ran the last 800m of the race in 1:59.83, a time that would have qualified her for the 800m semifinals. (Speaking of which, it would be fun to watch a rested Kipyegon race in the 800m final, because I think that’s a distance where she would finally have some competition.)
Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji (3:55.69) and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands (3:56.00) earned silver and bronze, respectively. Ireland’s Ciara Mageean put up a good fight but finished just out of the medals, in 3:56.61. Running an Irish record was her consolation prize. The only American in the field, Cory McGee, finished 10th in 4:01.60.
The race was simultaneously thrilling (that last lap!) and predictable. I’m guessing Kipyegon will win the 5,000m final, too. But I think if anyone’s going to beat her, it’s more likely to happen in the 5,000m. (Race replay | Results)
Athing Mu—and her shoes—hit the track in Budapest
Am I sure Athing Mu is the favorite in the 800m? No. She has raced only two 800s this year, with a fastest time of 1:58.73. It’s hard to tell where her fitness is. But it was Mu who got me out of bed at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Up until the moment she appeared in the warmup area, there was a question of whether the reigning world and Olympic champion would compete in Budapest. But she showed up, and she did so in style, wearing the most unusual shoes I’ve ever seen anyone race in.
I’ve made no secret over the years that I’m not the world’s biggest Nike fan, but I can’t shut up about Mu’s bedazzled Nike spikes. I’m not particularly into fashion either, but there’s so little variety in what everyone in track & field wears that now I’m looking forward to seeing what she has on her feet in the semis and, hopefully, the final. I’m definitely not counting Mu out. I don’t think she would have showed up if she didn’t think she was ready.
Another person who looked fantastic in the prelims was Nia Akins, who got out of traffic and won her heat in 1:59.19, the fastest time of the day. Akins has looked so good all season. The only question I have is what will happen if the race dips into the 1:55-1:56 range. Her PR is 1:58.78, but she has also looked like she could go faster in nearly every race she has run this season.
Raevyn Rogers also advanced, but Kaela Edwards did not. Edwards finished eighth in her heat in 2:02.22. This afternoon’s semis should be really tough, as the field goes from 27 to eight. In addition to Mu, the favorites are Kenya’s Mary Moraa and Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson. But if these championships have reminded us of anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. (Mu’s prelim | Hodgkinson’s prelim | Results)
Agate Caune is the talk of the 5,000m prelims
People don't usually strike out on their own in championship races, because the strategy often backfires. It’s a lot easier to be the hunter than the hunted, especially when you’re hunting in a pack. But in the first heat of the 5,000m, Latvia’s Agate Caune took off and built a big lead. She held a steady enough pace that the leaders didn’t catch her until 100m to go. And they had spread out enough that only three athletes went by her.
Caune, who turned 19 a couple weeks ago, finished fourth in 15:00.48, a small personal best, and advanced to Saturday’s final. Caune won two European U20 titles earlier this month and given how quick she is for her age, she’s probably used to doing a lot of solo front running. You can watch highlights from her heat here.
The top eight from each of the two heats advanced, and Elise Cranny (fifth, 15:01.53) and Alicia Monson (seventh, 15:03.35) comfortably advanced from the first heat. (Post-race interview with Caune | 5,000m results)
Like the 1500m, the second 5,000m heat was the tougher one, because it had Sifan Hassan and Faith Kipyegon in it. And Natosha Rogers was an unfortunate casualty. Hassan began pushing the pace early and won in 14:32.29, kind of a ridiculous time for a heat. Especially in hot and humid conditions, when many of the women are doubling (or tripling, in Hassan’s case). Hassan clearly wanted to get to the line first, and she leaned at the finish to edge Kipyegon by 0.02 seconds. Kipyegon looked like she had several gears left, though.
Kenya’s Lilian Kasait Rengeruk had what could have been a bad fall heading into the homestretch for the final time, but she got back on her feet quickly and finished fifth in 14:36.61. The second prelim was so quick that Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka (sixth, 14:37.98) and Mexico’s Laura Galván (eighth, 14:43.94) set national records in advancing.
Rogers finished ninth in 15:06.58, one spot out of qualifying, but it would have taken a decent PR for her to advance. More people go home disappointed than thrilled at these big meets, and it’s hard to watch the disappointment. But she has risen to a new level in the last two years, and representing the U.S. in two events in Budapest is a huge accomplishment. In the coming months, she’ll run a half marathon to qualify for the Olympic Trials, where she plans to make her marathon debut.
Courtney Wayment is the lone American left in the steeplechase
Bahrain’s Winfred Mutile Yavi fell coming out of the water jump early in the first steeplechase prelim, but fortunately she popped right back up, got back in the pack, and won in 9:19.18. Courtney Wayment, also in the first heat, ran a strong race and finished fourth in 9:20.60 to advance.
Emma Coburn, who was in the second heat, was not so fortunate. After the race, she disclosed that she’s been dealing with a hamstring injury since before the USATF Outdoor Championships. Coburn hadn’t been over a hurdle since USAs. But she thought she was making progress on the injury, until she went over the first water jump of the race and aggravated it. After that, the race was a struggle. She finished 10th in her heat in 9:41.52.
Coburn said that Joe Bosshard, her husband and coach, didn’t want her to run worlds, but she showed up because she’s stubborn, and she thought she might be able to get better (enough) in time. She talked about it more in an extensive and emotional post-race interview.
And in heat three, Krissy Gear was 4.57 seconds out of the last qualifying spot (fifth place) with one lap to go. Given what she’s done in the past, I thought making that up was not out of the question. But she had a tough last lap and finished seventh in 9:30.61. Gear was disappointed not to be moving on, but what excellent experience for her to get in her first year as a pro.
I’ll be curious to see how Sunday’s final plays out. Steeple times haven’t been as out-of-this-world this year as the times have been in other events. But maybe I’ll change my mind about that after the final. (Results)
Sha’Carri Richardson is the world’s fastest woman
Sha’Carri Richardson overcame several years of struggle and became world champion in the 100m on Monday night. And the buildup made her win even more exciting. Richardson got a slow start in the 100m semifinals, which led to a minor scare. Only the top two in each heat automatically advanced to the final, and she finished third in her semi. She ran 10.84, though, so she was never in serious danger. Her time ended up being the third-fastest among all of the semis; she would have won the other two heats.
Richardson had 10 minutes with her coach, Dennis Mitchell, between the semis and the final. They worked on her start, and it paid off. In the final, she improved her reaction time from 0.222 seconds to 0.156 seconds. Side note: I do not love that Mitchell, a convicted doper (plus there’s also this), now coaches some of the world’s best sprinters. But there’s no rule against it.
In the 100m, the middle lanes are generally the preferred ones, but because she advanced on time, Richardson ended up on the far outside, in lane nine. In some ways, being on the outside might have made it easier for Richardson to focus only on herself and produce somewhat of a sneak attack. She won in 10.65 seconds, a personal best and a championship record. She became the first American woman to win the world 100m title since the late Tori Bowie did so in 2017. (Michael Johnson pointed out this pattern of winners.) And Richardson is now tied for fifth on the world all-time list.
One of my favorite parts of the race was watching Richardson chat and laugh with the other two medalists, Jamaicans Shericka Jackson (silver, 10.72) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (bronze, 10.77), afterward. Whatever they were saying, Jackson and Fraser-Pryce felt the need to cover their mouths, lest the lip readers catch wind of it. There’s no way the Jamaicans weren’t feeling some disappointment, but they were really gracious about Richardson’s win.
Richardson has repeatedly said, “I’m not back; I’m better,” this season, and she is indeed. This is her first major championship win, and it will set her up as one of the favorites, if not the favorite, heading into next year’s Olympic Games. (Good NYT article, gift link, summarizing some of what Richardson has been through to get to this point | Results)
Laulauga Tausaga-Collins produces one of the biggest moments of the meet
Heading into the discus final at the world championships, Laulauga Tausaga-Collins’ main goal was just not to finish 12th out of the 12 finalists. It may seem like a pessimistic goal, but Tausaga-Collins finished 12th at both the 2019 and 2022 world championships. She knew that on her best day, she was capable of much more. But she didn’t realize quite how much.
Early on in the competition, things weren’t going great. She told NBC that her coach, John Dagata, said, “At this point, we go guns blazing and we see what happens.” And what happened was a 69.49m throw in the fifth round. It was a personal best by four meters and it vaulted her into the lead, which she never relinquished. It’s a delight to watch NBC’s highlights from the discus competition. Or, if you’re looking for something more efficient, you can watch the winning throw here. Her reaction is fantastic.
Tausaga-Collins, 25, was the 2019 NCAA champion for the University of Iowa. And now she’s the first American woman to become world champion in the discus. It was a U.S. 1–2, as Valarie Allman earned silver (69.23m). China’s Feng Bin took bronze (68.20m).
“I don't know if I have a fairy godmother or something, or my ancestors had some say in it, but I was able to do something tonight that I didn't think was possible yet,” Tausaga-Collins told reporters. (Results)
Other world championships news
After a disastrous finish to the mixed 4x400m relay, Femke Bol of the Netherlands had a successful stop on her “revenge” tour, winning the 400m hurdles in 51.70 seconds. She was far enough ahead that the race for second was the more exciting one, with Shamier Little edging out Jamaica’s Rushell Clayton, 52.80 to 52.81. Little earned a silver medal in this event at the 2015 world championships, and eight years later, she earned another one. (Results)
And it was a similar story in the 100m hurdles as eight years after winning her first world title, Jamaica’s Danielle Williams, 30, earned a second one. She had the fastest reaction time in the field and ran 12.43 seconds. The favorite, Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, earned silver in 12.44 seconds, and Keni Harrison won bronze in 12.46 seconds. (Results)
My favorite part of the hammer competition was the camaraderie. Watch the second half of the linked video to see what I mean. Canada’s Camryn Rogers, who competed in college for Cal, won gold (77.22m), and Americans Janee’ Kassanavoid and DeAnna Price earned silver (76.36m) and bronze (75.41m), respectively. My least favorite part about the hammer competition is the fact that Rogers is unsponsored. So while she’ll get $70,000 for the win, she won’t get any sponsor bonuses. (Results)
Katie Moon and Australia’s Nina Kennedy matched each other jump for jump in the pole vault. After both missed all three attempts at 4.95m, they had two options: have a jump-off or tie for first. They chose to tie, which meant a guaranteed gold for both. If you’re not a fan of them choosing to tie, read this post from Moon. Recent high school Hana Moll, 18, finished an impressive ninth in the final, clearing 4.50m. (And she vaulted a PR of 4.65m to get to the final.) (Video highlights | Results)
Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won the 400m in a national record of 48.76. Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone’s best time of the season was 48.74. That would have, in theory, been a great race. (Results)
Spain’s María Pérez, who already won the 20K race walk, also won the 35K race walk, in 2:38:40. (Results)
Other news and links
The New York Times profiled Alicia Monson (gift link), who was apparently a tree in her high school’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
This video shows more of the behind-the-scenes of what Anna Hall went through leading up to the world championships. On July 17, she injured herself in training—she even happens to have a video of it. And a little more than a month later, she earned a silver medal.
New York Road Runners has changed its pregnancy and postpartum cancellation policy, so now athletes can defer their New York City Marathon entry for up to three years. SheRACES pointed out that because they’ll get a non-complimentary entry, this will require paying the nearly $300 entry fee twice. NYRR and &Mother partnered in developing the new policy, and the latter said that while not all of their recommendations were included, they’re pleased that it’s a step forward. Sure, there’s more work to do, but I appreciate the big difference &Mother has made in the sport in a short period of time.
I appreciated the thought that went into this post from Caitlin Kowalke, who has decided to stop chasing an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. In 2022, she missed qualifying for the 2024 Trials by one second. A year later, she missed by 23 seconds.
A few podcasts
I get a little burned out on running podcasts sometimes, but this new podcast from Molly Seidel and Julia Hanlon got me excited again. It’s a limited-time series and they’ll be releasing one episode a month until the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February. Seidel shared some wisdom and said she’ll be racing again soon, at the USATF 20K Championships September 4. (But first a stop at UTMB. To spectate, not race.) It took me a minute to find it in my podcast player, but searching for “The Build Up with Molly Seidel and Julia Hanlon” did the trick. It’s also on YouTube.
USATF launched a podcast—USA Track and Field’s Behind The Wings. They’ve already put out four episodes, with guests that include Anna Hall, Laulauga Tausaga-Collins, Katie Moon, and Dalilah Muhammad. (I assume they’re not going to keep posting an episode every day. Who can keep up?) It seems to be available on Spotify only. It’s hosted by Wallace Spearmon and Erik Kynard, both former pros who are now USATF employees, and they should have better access to the athletes than most podcast hosts do.
I’ve found it exhausting trying to keep up with this year’s world championships. How does anyone do it? But it’s a good problem to have. I’ve been pleased with the coverage, for the most part. And these next three days should be the best of all.
Everyone in Budapest has made it clear that it’s hot there. The forecast indicates that it’s likely to be between 73 and 80 degrees during tomorrow morning’s marathon. Championship marathons have been held in far worse conditions, but it’s hardly going to be pleasant. I’m excited enough to follow the race that I’ll be up at 1:00 a.m. ET, live tweeting updates.
Make sure not to miss the women’s 200m final today at 3:40 p.m. ET on Peacock and the USA Network. And the 800m semis, at 2:25 p.m., are likely to be both excellent and a little heartbreaking.