Why Faith Kipyegon Is Kenya’s Greatest Female Athlete

Why Faith Kipyegon Is Kenya’s Greatest Female Athlete

Edwin Kiplagat
updated at December 8, 2023 at 10:13 AM
  • Faith Kipyegon has had a phenomenal 2023
  • She achieved so much, cementing her legacy in a short period
  • So many Kenyan female athletes have come and gone, but none have achieved what Kipyegon has

On June 2 2023, Faith Kipyegon crossed the finish line after 3:49.11 in the women's 1500m at the Golden Gala Diamond League meeting in Florence, Italy.

With that time, she set a new world record in the distance and kicked off a historic run from that point.

The 29-year-old Kenyan star went on to break two more world records, something few female Kenyan athletes can boast about. By doing so, she cemented her legacy as the best female athlete of all time.

Faith Kipyegon, Kenya, 2024 Paris Olympics, Diamond League, World Athletics, Eliud Kipchoge
Faith Kipyegon is just getting started. Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis.
Source: Getty Images

Kipyegon's journey in athletics began a little over a decade ago. She took part in the 2010 World Athletics Cross Country Championships at 16 and finished fourth while running barefoot. And by 2011, she had won her first career gold medal in the World Athletics Cross Country Championships

She made her Olympics debut in 2012 in London and World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013. She had started to show promising signs, and it wasn't long before she started dominating.

Kipyegon's accolades

Her first major win came in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, where she clocked 4:08.92, beating Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba and USA's in the women's 1500m.

It got better and better for Kipyegon from that point. Her first world title in the distance came in 2017 in London. Two more world titles would follow in 2022 and 2023. Between that, a second Olympic gold medal in the distance in 2021 in Tokyo.

Kenya has dominated middle and long-distance athletics for over five decades, and Kipyegon is the only female athlete from the East African nation to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.

Between world and Olympic titles, she was putting clinics in the Diamond League meetings. She won 23 Diamond League races and five Diamond League titles.

In 2023 alone, she shattered three world records. After breaking the 1500m world record in June, she went on to obliterate the 5,000m world record in Paris, then shattered the mile record with a stunning 4:07.64 at the Monaco Diamond League on July 21. She is the favourite to win the Women's World Athlete of the Year award.

Kenya has produced incredible female athletes over the years, and Kipyegon is on top of that list.

Interestingly, Pamela Jelimo was the first Kenyan woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics. It came in 2008. Pauline Konga became the first Kenyan woman to win a medal at the Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta.

Overcoming the odds

On paper, her career may look flawless, but that is far from the truth.

Amidst all the success, her daughter Alyn was born in 2018, which forced the double Olympic champion to take a 21-month break before returning to the sport.

The three-time world champion is just the third athlete to retain her Olympic title after becoming a mum between the events, joining Australia's Shirley Strickland and Cameroonian triple-jumper Francoise Mbango Etone in achieving the rare feat, per BBC.

“I was so afraid, [thinking]: ‘Maybe I will not come back, I will just disappear,’” she told Runner’s World. “Every lady, their mind goes like that. But I was very strong-minded. I said: ‘Let me do this.’"

After the break, the world record holder surprised many by winning the 1500m at the Prefontaine Classic in Palo Alto, California, in June 2019. She then took silver in the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

The break turned out to be one of the best things to happen in her career. It gave her time to rest and find motivation.

Kipyegon's incredible longevity

The Kenyna star turns 30 next month, and it feels like she is just getting started. She has been consistent for so long at the highest level, something few female athletes from Kenya have managed.

By the end of the 2024 Paris Olympics, Kipyegon could have three gold medals in 1500m, an unprecedented feat.

After that, she revealed she would be looking to begin her career in the marathon. If things go her way, she could be the greatest female track and field athlete ever.

Furthermore, she trains under Patrick Sang, Eliud Kipchoge's famous coach. So, this means she could add more to an already phenomenal CV.

So, yes, Kipyegon is the greatest Kenyan female athlete of all time, and it is not close.

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What Kipyegon earned for gold medals

Sports Brief previously reported on what Kipyegon earned for her gold medals at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

She won two gold medals, and will be entitled to $140,000. When converted to Kenyan shillings, she will make over Ksh20 million (1USD=145Ksh).

Kipyegon will take home $40,000 after her dominant win in the Diamond League final.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Edwin Kiplagat has five years of experience in journalism working as a Sports Editor at Africa Insight Communications and ESPN. Edwin Kiplagat is a Bachelor's Degree holder in journalism from the Multimedia University of Kenya.