World Record Holder Letesenbet Gidey Wins First Major Title
Kenya’s Hellen Obiri and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi took silver and bronze in the first track final of the 2022 World Athletics Championships.
By Johanna Gretschel
The longest race on the track came down to one second. In a dramatic homestretch sprint, Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia ran 30:09.94 to edge Kenyans Hellen Obiri (30:10.02) and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (30:10.07) to win her first World Championship title in the 10,000m.
A late charge from the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan fell short as the double Olympic champion ran out of gas in the final meters and had to settle for fourth in 30:10.56.
The 24-year-old Gidey owns world records on the track in both the 5K (14:06.62) and 10K (29:01.03), but had never won a senior global championship and wasn’t necessarily favored for the win on Saturday in Eugene after she faltered in her 5,000m world record attempt at the Prefontaine Classic to her countrywoman Ejgayehu Taye.
The first track final of the championships saw Japan’s Ririka Hironaka take the early lead, clocking 73s laps with metronomic precision – an honest yet manageable pace, as most of the field remained in contention until about 3,000m to go, when Gidey and Taye moved to the front to whittle down the pace to 71s. Obiri and Kipkemboi kept their rivals close, and the front of the pack was ablaze with Kenyan and Ethiopian kits.
At the bell, Gidey maintained her control of the lead while Hassan started the signature kick that saw her capture gold in both the 5K and 10K in Tokyo. Taye couldn’t hang and it became a four-woman race. But down the backstretch, the seams of Hassan’s limited training started to show; Kipkemoi made a push on the inside rail, and Gidey swung wide to keep Obiri out of gold medal position.
Her wide-swinging elbows appeared to make contact with Obiri, but the Kenyan federation ultimately decided against filing a protest, according to journalist Michelle Katami.
After a 60.7s closing lap, Gidey sank to her knees on the track and did the sign of the cross in celebration of her win. Though she is the fastest-ever athlete in multiple events (she also owns the world record in the half marathon and world’s best in the 15k), she had yet to win gold at a major senior-level championship: she was the 10,000m silver medalist at the 2019 World Championships in Doha and had to settle for bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, despite cutting five seconds off Hassan’s world record earlier in the summer.
Both times, Hassan won gold.
But the Hassan of 2022 is a different athlete than the woman who closed the Doha 10,000m final with a sub-four minute 1500m and won three medals after six races in nine days at the Tokyo Olympics. After her heroic 2021 efforts that also included a bronze medal in the 1500m, the former member of the Nike Oregon Project suffered from burnout and took eight months completely off from running until this May, after Ramadan. She told members of the media in Eugene that she took this year easy, as her ultimate goal is to be at her best for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. She told them she was proud of her performance today, as she should be.
Competing on home turf, Karissa Schweizer of the Bowerman Track Club was the top American finisher in ninth place, clocking a 29s personal best of 30:18.05. That time ranks her No.3 all-time in U.S. history, passing her coach Shalane Flanagan. She was pleased with the result, which was an improvement on her 12th place finish last year in Tokyo, when she was suffering from an achilles injury and proved she came back even stronger after surgery last fall.
“This is just a world of difference from last year,” she told media after the race. “To be able to be there and feel like I’m really in the race and attacking. If ninth is the best I have today, that’s what it is and I hope I can just keep showing up and one day that will be a medal.”
“Last year I got lapped in this race, so to be able to be there and feel like I’m in the race is really exciting and I’m excited for the 5k on Wednesday.”
Fellow Americans Alicia Monson and Natosha Rogers finished 13th in 30:59.83 and 15th in 31:10.57, respectively.
A Magnificent Push for Home
Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola put on a stretch run for the ages to win a world championship in the marathon.
By Liam Boylan-Pett
Just past 33k into Sunday’s marathon, Ethiopian Tamirat Tola was at the front of a pack of 14 runners. Entering an uphill stretch – one of only a few on the course – Tola surged away from the lead group. It was a familiar spot for Tola.
At the 2017 World Championship marathon, he had attempted to string out the field with a similar move. Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya, however, could not be dropped, and Tola raced to a silver medal.
“I learned from my mistake in 2017,” Tola told reporters after the race, “and I made sure it did not happen again.”
Tola’s surge was monumental. No one went with him. A 2:52 to get to 34km blew the race wide open. A 2:43 over the next kilometer officially ended it. Tola extended his lead over the final 8km, running away from the field to take the world championship in a Championship Record of 2:05:36, winning by 1:10 thanks to a blistering 5k split of 13:55 from 33 to 38k. “It was a dream come true,” Tola said.
Mosinet Geremew finished second in 2:06:44 to make it a 1-2 Ethiopia finish – the country went 1-2 in the 2019 world championships, too – and Bashir Abdi of Belgium rounded out the medals in 2:06:48.
Canada’s Cam Levins had “the race of his life” to set a new Canadian National record in 2:07:09 in fourth place.
Running on a fast, looped course in overcast and cool conditions, American Galen Rupp was not a factor. The Oregon native made it to 30k with the lead pack, but was unable to match the field’s moves over the last quarter of the race. “This was obviously a tough one,” Rupp told reporters after the race. “But proud of myself to get across the finish line.” Rupp, who said he planned to run a fall marathon, never could have dropped out of a race in his home state and where he went to school. “It meant so much to me hearing everybody out there, seeing a lot of familiar faces,” he said. “It was very special.”
While it was a special run for Rupp, it was Tola from Ethiopia who was not going to be denied in the final stages of the race. Even after the race was long over, Tola continued to pour on the pace, running 2:45 for his final kilometer. It was his first World Championship win, adding to an already impressive resume that included a bronze from the 10,000m in Rio, and the silver from the 2017 marathon.
Like the racewalks, the marathon did not finish in Hayward Field. Rupp had told Runner’s World before the race he wished the course could have veered towards the new stadium. If it was any consolation, the show put on by the some of the world’s best marathoners – often right next to the wondrous Pre’s Trail – was worthy of a championship race, even if the finish wasn’t on the historic track.
Who Runs the World… Championship Marathon?
By Amory Rowe
The last time a World Championship marathon was held, it was halfway around the world and twice as hot. Since that sweltering evening on the corniche in Doha in 2019, much has changed in the world at-large – and in the world of the marathon more narrowly: course, national and world marks have fallen, marathon greats have cemented their spots in history, and exciting new stars have emerged. Monday morning’s women’s World Championships marathon in Eugene offered up a chance to witness all of these exciting possibilities.
With unseasonably cool weather at the start, it was just 53 degrees when Joan Benoit Samuelson fired the starter’s pistol at 6:15am, and a small but mighty field of 40 athletes, the day was primed for stellar performances and record-breaking.
Proven marathon veterans were in the field, including defending World Champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya, but several athletes were stepping up to the line of a World Championships for the first time.
Despite having over 100 years of collective experience, all three of the members of Team USA were first-time World Championships competitors. Together, Sara Hall, Emma Bates and Keira D’Amato comprised the most talented team the United States has ever fielded at a World Championships marathon.
They would be tested, though, as the pace was blistering from the start. A group of eight frontrunners separated themselves from the field in the first few kilometers. Keira D’Amato was the sole US runner to consider joining the pack, which included Chepngetich, her two Kenyan countrywomen, the three Ethiopian athletes, Lonah Salpeter of Israel and Nazret Weldu of Eritrea.
By 5k, reached in 16:10, well under world record pace, D’Amato had dropped back and would eventually be swallowed up by the chase pack, which included Hall and Bates. The trio of US athletes would work together for the balance of the race. Up front, different athletes took turns pushing the pace, with Kenyans Judith Korir and Angela Tanui running stride for stride with Ethiopians Gotyom Gebreslase and Ababel Yeshaneh.
As the chase pack held steady, clicking off kilometers between 3:25 and 3:30, the pace varied wildly up front. After that 16:10 first 5k, the leaders yo-yoed through 5k splits of 16:29, 16:50, 16:07, 16:28, 16:04 and 16:33 through 35k. The jagged pace changes proved unsustainable for several of the athletes, including Chepngetich and Yeshaneh, both of whom dropped out with stomach problems.
The final stages of the race looked momentarily biblical, with athletes working their way around the looped criterium course Noah’s ark-style: two-by-two. The battle for gold and silver was being waged between Gebreslase and Korir, while Weldu and Salpeter worked together to pick off Tanui and Yeshaneh. Behind them, the US-led chase pack had shattered and athletes worked on hunting down individual places.
At 40 kilometers, Gebreselase, the third place finisher in Tokyo this past March, finally made her move on Korir, opening up a gap that would prove impossible to close. Korir held on for the silver medal and Salpeter closed strong to take the bronze, only the second-ever track and field medal for Israel. All four of the top finishers were under the old Championship record of 2:20:57 set by Paula Radcliffe in Helsinki in 2005.
The three US athletes would combine for the best-ever team finish at a World Championships marathon–and the coveted team title. Sara Hall led the way in fifth (2:20:10), followed by Emma Bates in a personal best 2:23:18 in seventh and US record holder Keira D’Amato in eighth (2:23:34).
In keeping with host city Eugene’s practice of awarding medals in the immediate aftermath of the event, marathon icons Joan Benoit Samuelson and Katherine Switzer were on-hand to drape the gold, silver and bronze medals around the necks of the top three finishers. Once those prizes had been awarded, the two elder stateswomen of distance running turned to the contingent of Americans and wrapped them in a giant embrace.
The five women–all of them marathon pathbreakers, pioneers, champions, medalists and record holders–stood there for an extended beat of time. They were, in that moment, more than anything else, teammates in the long, successful and ongoing tradition of the marathon.