The runner from Uganda took down a world record that stood for 16 (!) years.
At the Monaco Diamond League meet on August 14—the first completely in-person Diamond League event of the year—the 10,000-meter world champion from Uganda ran 12:35.36, with the help of expert pace-making from Roy Hoornweg, Stephen Kissa, and Matthew Ramsden. Averaging 4:03 per mile, the 23-year-old broke the previous world record of 12:37.35 set by Kenenisa Bekele in 2004.
“I think Monaco is a special place, and it’s one of these places where I could break the world record,” Cheptegei told Diamond League race organisers. “It took a lot of mind setting to keep being motivated this year because so many people are staying home, but you have to stay motivated. I pushed myself, I had the right staff with me, the right coach. I’m also usually based in Europe, but being based in Uganda with my family was actually really great. I will for sure celebrate the world record when I get home.”
The 5,000-meter world record follows a series of breakthrough performances for Cheptegei in 2019 and 2020, despite the race cancellations caused by the coronavirus outbreak this year.
Cheptegei broke the world record in the 5K in the Monaco Run 5K on February 16, running 12:51 to obliterate the previous record by 27 seconds. On December 1, 2019, he set a road 10K world record of 26:38 at the 10K Valencia Trinidad Alfonso in Valencia, Spain—though the record was lowered by Rhonex Kipruto on January 12, 2020.
In addition to Cheptegei’s record, the first non-virtual Diamond League competition of the year hosted a number of world-leading performances and personal bests.
Kipyegon comes just shy of a WR
Faith Kipyegon nearly broke the world record in the women’s 1,000 meters. The Olympic 1500-meter champion ran 2:29.15—an African record and a Diamond League record—which is less than a second slower than the world record of 2:28.98 set by Svetlana Masterkova in 1996.
“Training in isolation was really hard, training alone with the tracks in Kenya all closed was complicated, but I managed to train a little bit and I’m really happy to win tonight,” Kipyegon told organisers.
The Kenyan middle-distance runner led five women to performances that broke national records in their respective countries. Behind Kipyegon, Laura Muir of Great Britain ran 2:30.82. She was followed by Ciara Mageean of Ireland who finished in 2:31.06. Halimah Nakaayi finished fifth to break the national record for Uganda. And Sofia Ennaoui followed to claim the record for Poland.
Lyles Runs a World-Best for 2020
Noah Lyles ran 19.76—the top time in the world this year—to win the men’s 200 meters. The 200-meter world champion was followed by his brother, Josephus Lyles, who finished second in 20.30.
“It’s a lot better to be out here competing instead of being in your backyard,” Lyles told organisers. “Racing on home tracks really felt like practice and I wanted to compete, feel the pressure with the other athletes, get that excitement going.”
Before the start of the race, Lyles paid tribute to Olympic gold medalist and activist Tommie Smith by raising a black-gloved fist, mirroring the statement Smith and his American teammate John Carlos made to protest racial injustice while on the podium at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Lyles’s statement follows weeks of national protests in response to the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
Obiri kicks to win the women’s 5,000 meters
In her first track race of the year, three-time world champion Helen Obiri threw down a dominant kick to win the women’s 5,000 meters. With 200 meters remaining, the Kenyan standout made a move on the inside lane to run past Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia to the win. Obiri crossed the finish line in 14:22.12, a meet record and world-leading time for the 2020 season.
“Because Kenya was in lockdown, I was not able to train properly so I was not well prepared for this race,” Obiri told organisers. “For me, I thought I was in shape for 14:40 and seeing I did 14:22, I am really happy.”
Behind Obiri and Gidey, Laura Weightman of Great Britain ran a personal best of 14:35. And Jessica Hull, a former University of Oregon standout, broke Australia’s national record by running 14:43.80.
Shannon Rowbury, the lone American in the race, finished fifth in 14:45. The time is just seven seconds slower than her personal best of 14:38.92, which was the American record until Shelby Houlihan lowered the mark in 2018.
Ahead of the race, many were focused on 10,000-and 1500-meter world champion Sifan Hassan. But with 2.5 laps remaining, the Dutch runner dropped out of the competition.
Cheruiyot, Ingebrigtsen go 1-2 in the men’s 1500 meters
Defending world champion Timothy Cheruiyot led three runners under the 3:30 barrier in the men’s 1500 meters.
Following the pacers through the first three laps, Cheruiyot held his position up front through the finish line in a winning time of 3:28.45, a world lead. Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway finished runner up in 3:28.68, a European record and a new personal best for the 19-year-old, and Jake Wightman of Great Britain finished third in 3:29.47, also a personal best. Craig Engels, the only American in the race, finished 11th in 3:35.42.
U.S. on top in the men’s 800 meters
The Americans dominated the men’s 800 meters with world champion Donavan Brazier and Bryce Hoppel finishing first and second, respectively.
With less than 200 meters to go, Brazier made his move to the front, Hoppel following close behind. The American record-holder crossed the finish line in 1:43.15, a world-leading time.
“It feels good and like the validation here,” Brazier told organizers. “I’m racing everybody on the west coast, and I don’t really know where I’m at. It’s easy to win these competitions but coming here and four of the top eight guys are in this race, so I’m really happy.”
Hoppel followed in 1:43.23, which is a new personal best for the former University of Kansas standout. His performance puts him at No. 7 on the U.S. all-time list.
The Monaco meeting is the third of 14 competitions in the Diamond League circuit. Due to concerns over the virus outbreak, the Oslo and Zurich meetings were held earlier this year in a hybrid format of virtual and in-person competition.