11 Africans Who Hold Athletics World Records: From Eliud Kipchoge to Tobi Amusan

11 Africans Who Hold Athletics World Records: From Eliud Kipchoge to Tobi Amusan

Martin Moses
updated at August 18, 2023 at 2:20 PM
  • Eliud Kipchoge and Faith Kipyegon lead an elite list of African record holders in athletics events
  • Kenya and Ethiopia, plus Uganda on occasion, are always known for their stellar performances
  • Last year, Nigerian star Tobi Amusan shocked many when she set a world record in a sprint race

When it comes to middle and long-distance races, Africa - Kenya and Ethiopia in particular - is often revered on the global stage.

From Eliud Kipchoge dominating the marathon races to Faith Kipyegon recently silencing doubters (if there were still any) with two astronomical world records, to Joshua Cheptegei's brilliance in the middle-distance races, East Africa's prowess is technically unmatched.

With the World Athletics Championships coming up this weekend, could we see another African break a world record?

Faith Kipyegon, Eliud Kipchoge, Tobi Amusan, Lamecha Girma, David Rudisha, Wayde Van Niekerk, Brigid Kosgei, Beatrice Chepkoech, Joshua CheptegeiDiamond League, Doha DL, Sha'Carri Richardson, Shericka Jackson
Faith Kipyegon celebrates after breaking the 5000m World Record on June 9. Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos.
Source: Getty Images

Shorter races have also gained prominence in the continent in recent times, with Commonwealth champion, Ferdinand Omanyala, breaking barriers.

He is yet to get a world record but Tobi Amusan lit up the World Athletics Championships last year with a blistering world record in the 100m hurdles.

Sports Brief looks at all the Africans who hold world records (events that are included in the core events of the World Athletics Championships) - figures courtesy of World Athletics.

1. Tobi Amusan (Nigeria) - women's 100m hurdles

Amusan became the first Nigerian to become a record holder in an athletics event when she shattered the 100m women's hurdles standard at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon. She clocked a time of 12.12 seconds in the semi-finals to best Kendra Harrison's 2016 record of 12.20 seconds.

Even better, she lowered that time further to 12.06 seconds in the finals, but it was never ratified due to a wind reading of 2.5m/s.

2. Wayde Van Niekerk (South Africa) - men's 400m

The South African set a time of 43.03 seconds at the 2016 Olympics in Rio to break Michael Johnson's long-standing record of 43.18 seconds. His fete was huge considering he did it from lane 8 - a lane often considered disadvantageous to athletes due to its staggered start, as captured by BBC Sports.

3. David Rudisha (Kenya) - men's 800m

Rudisha obliterated the field at the 2012 London Olympics to become the first man and the only one to date to break the 1:41:00 barrier in the 800-metre race.

He clocked a time of 1.40.19 in a race often referred to as the best 800m race ever, given that all of the Kenyan's competitors also set new records - from national records to personal bests to season bests.

It's a shame that injuries curtailed Rudisha's career, but he did give the world one of the most memorable runs ever.

4. Faith Kipyegon (Kenya) - women's 1500m and 5000m

There was little doubt Kipyegon was the most decorated 1500m female runner of all time. All that remained was for her to break the world record to put that topic to rest eternally. She came agonisingly close at the Monaco Diamond League last year and at the Florence Diamond League this year, she was not to be denied.

She recorded a time of 3:49.11, becoming the first woman to drop below 3:50:00 to set a new record. To put this crazy performance in perspective, that time could have won her the men's 1500m gold at the 2016 Olympics.

Barely a week later, the mother of one was back at it, this time at the 5000m at the Paris Diamond League. In her mind, Kipyegon was there to ramp up her fitness as she chases a third consecutive world title next month, but little did she know she would walk away with another title.

She floored the then-record holder, Letesenbet Gidey, to win with a time of 14:05.20. Not bad for someone whose speciality is not the 5000m, huh?

5. Beatrice Chepkoech (Kenya) - women's 3000m steeplechase

Chepkoech smashed the previous world record by 8 seconds during the Monaco Diamond League meet in 2018.

She posted a time of 8:44.32 en route to winning the Diamond League trophy that year.

6. Lamecha Girma (Ethiopia) - men's 3000m steeplechase

When the 2020 Tokyo Silver medalist sent out a warning that he will attempt to break the world record at the Paris Diamond League, not many took him seriously.

For starters, many brilliant athletes had come before him, but none had managed to break Saif Shaheed's record set in 2004. However, Girma clocked 7:52.11 to shave off at least more than a second of Shaheed's record.

One can only imagine how the time would have looked like had the Olympic and world champion, Soufiane El Bakkali, been included in the race as well.

7. Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda) - men's 5000m/10000m

Show me a better-decorated Ugandan runner; I'll wait. The two-time 10,000m world champion broke Kenenisa Bekele's records in both disciplines.

He set a time of 12:35.36 to beat Bekele's 5000m record by at least 2 seconds at the Monaco Diamond League in 2020. Two months later, in Valencia, he shaved six seconds off Bekele's 10,000m record in a blistering 26:11.00.

8. Letesenbet Gidey (Ethiopia) - women's 10000m

Kipyegon might have snatched the 5,000m crown from Gidey, but the 10,000m world record remains hers. She broke Sifan Hassan's two-day record in 2021 to set a time of 29:01.03. It didn't look like she would get the world record at the halfway mark, but Gidey kicked it in, especially in the last lap, where she took just 63 seconds.

9. Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) - men's 1500m

When talking about the record that would possibly never get broken, this ranks highly. The Moroccan set an insane time of 3:26.00 in 1998.

To date, the closest athlete to get to near time was Bernand Lagat, who recorded 3.26.24 in - wait for this - 2001.

10. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) - men's marathon

Well, you definitely know that an athletics story is not complete without mentioning the greatest marathoner of all time.

The two-time Olympic champion first set the marathon record in 2018 in Berlin before lowering it further four years later in the same city to the current 2:01.09.

11. Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) - women's marathon

Kosgei took off 81 seconds from the previous world record at the Chicago Marathon in 2019. She made a time of 2:14:04 to set the new world record.

Records that may never be broken

Apart from winning the World and Olympic titles, athletes usually try to go a step further and etch their names into history books by setting new world records.

Armando Duplantis has made it his own in disciplines like the men's pole vault and it almost feels like the Swede sets a new record every time he competes.

As Sports Brief reported, other records will require a lot of time and effort for someone to break them finally. These are the records that may never be broken.

Martin Moses photo
Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
Eliud KipchogeFaith KipyegonKenyaNigeriaSouth Africa