Kenyan creates history by becoming the first woman to break 3:50 barrier with 3:49.11 at Diamond League

With one of the greatest performances in the history of female middle-distance running, Faith Kipyegon stormed to a world 1500m record of 3:49.11 in Florence on Friday (June 2).

The 29-year-old from Kenya beat Genzebe Dibaba’s eight-year-old mark of 3:50.07 on a cool and still evening in the Luigi Ridolfi Stadium in Italian city. It means Kipyegon is the first woman to break the 3:50 barrier and, after winning two Olympic and two world titles in recent years, she can now lay claim to being called the greatest female 1500m runner in history.

Brooke Feldmeier paced the field through 400m in 62.37 with fellow rabbit Sage Hurta-Klecker passing 800m in 2:04.00 with Kipyegon not far behind. Laura Muir of Britain and Jess Hull of Australia were also hanging on to the swift pace as the rest of the field lagged some distance behind, but Muir and Hull were struggling to stay in contact whereas Kipyegon was cruising in comparison.

Cutting loose in the final 600m and passing the 1000m mark in 2:34.5, Kipyegon only had the Wavelight technology for company and down the back straight she seemed to pull ahead of the lights, which had been set at world record pace. Coming into the home straight it looked like she would break Dibaba’s mark and, sure enough, she charged through the final metres before celebrating. Her final 800m was a scintillating 2:00.6, last 400m 58.9 and final 200m 29.2.

Faith Kipyegon (Getty)

Despite the savage early pace, Muir held on to run a fine 3:57.09 in her season’s opener, as Hull ran an Australian record of 3:57.29 and Ciara Mageean of Ireland finished strongly to clock 4:00.95.

“This means a lot to me,” said Kipyegon, who gave birth to her daughter, Alyn, in 2018. “I knew everything was possible. My fans were really looking for this world record and I thank them for praying for me.

“I was not expecting to run this fast tonight. Maybe a world lead, but not a world record.”

“It was great to be part of the world record race,” said Muir. “But it was not the first world record race I was running in, I was in previous ones. I am so happy for Faith. I would have loved to be closer to her. But for the first race of the season this is really decent. I have never gone through the first 800m as fast as today.”

Faith Kipyegon is congratulated by fellow athletes (Getty)

Such was the quality of Kipyegon’s run, she would have put former men’s world record-holder and nine-time Olympic champion Paavo Nurmi 2.7sec behind her. When it comes to previous barriers being broken, the first sub-4:10 was in 1971 by Karin Burneleit of East Germany with 4:09.6 and the first sub-4:00 came in 1976 by Tatyana Kazankina of the Soviet Union with 3:56.0.

Fred Kerley was once again in formidable shape in the men’s 100m as he coasted away to win in 9.94 (0.0) from runner-up Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya, who ran 10.05 with Trayvon Bromell third in 10.09.

Akani Simbine of South Africa was fourth in 10.09 while the surprise Italian winner of the European indoor 60m title, Samuele Ceccarelli, was fifth in 10.13.

Fred Kerley (Getty)

Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy withdrew from his head-to-head with Kerley a few days before the meeting, but the Italian would have had his work cut out to beat the American.

There was delight for the home crowd in the women’s long jump, though, when Larissa Iapichino took victory ahead of a strong field in 6.79 (0.7). The Italian, whose mother is former English Schools champion Fiona May Iapichino, beat American Tara Davis-Woodhall by five centimetres although the distances were not as far as expected and Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany was only fifth with 6.57m, one place ahead of Britain’s Jazmin Sawyers’ 6.43m.

Femke Bol (Getty)

Femke Bol cruised to a meeting record and world lead of 52.43 in the women’s 400m hurdles. The Dutch athlete saw off the challenge of Shamier Little, the in-form American running 53.38, as Anna Hall, the heptathlon winner in Götzis five days earlier, clocked a PB of 54.42 in third.

Running in still conditions but cloudy and around 20C, Erriyon Knighton of the United States pulled away from his rivals in the final 50m of the 200m to win comfortably in 19.89 (0.0).

Erriyon Knighton (Getty)

Dina Asher-Smith was a last-minute withdrawal from the women’s 100m due to cramp in a calf muscle. In her absence Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast sped to victory in 10.97 (-0.4) from European champion Gina Lückenkemper of Germany as Britain’s Imani Lansiquot clocked 11.16 in third just a few days after her breakthrough 11.03 run in the UK.

This meeting in 1987 saw the first-ever sub-13-minute clocking when Said Aouita set a world record of 12:58.39. But on Friday the first 13 runners broke that barrier as Mo Katir of Spain won narrowly ahead of Yomif Kejelecha of Spain with 12:52.09.

In third, Luis Grijalva set a Guatamala record of 12:52.97 with Olympic champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda fourth in 12:53.81. It was a good race for the American visitors too as Woody Kincaid ran a PB of 12:54.40 in sixth, just ahead of Joe Klecker, who also ran a PB of 12:55.16 as Grant Fisher ran 12:56.99 in 11th.

Mo Katir (Getty)

Such was the standard, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega was ninth and fellow Ethiopian Berihu Aregawi, the Diamond League champion in 2022, 14th.

Sembo Almayew, the rising star of the women’s steeplechase, came close to breaking the nine-minute barrier as the 19-year-old from Ethiopia clocked a meet record and world lead of 9:00.71 to win by four seconds from Jackline Chepkoech from Kenya.

After a rare defeat in Rabat, Grant Holloway was back to winning ways as he clocked 13.04 (-0.2) ahead of Jason Joseph of Switzerland and fellow American Devon Allen.

Grant Holloway (Getty)

Only five centimetres separated winner Valarie Allman from runner-up Feng Bin in the women’s discus as the American threw 65.96m to beat the Olympic champion.

The men’s shot put was also close with a home nation win as Leonardo Fabbri of Italy threw 21.73m to delight the home crowd as he beat Tom Walsh of New Zealand by 4cm as Tomas Stanek of Czech Republic placed third with 21.64m, Joe Kovacs of the United States fourth with 21.55m as Italy’s recent European indoor champion Zane Weir was sixth.

Diamond League triple jump champion from 2022, Andy Díaz, the Cuban-born Italian, won with a PB of 17.75m. In the men’s high jump, JuVaughan Harrison of the United States took the win with 2.32m.

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