2023 World Athletics Championships

Athing Mu In Budapest? We Preview The Women's Distance Events At Worlds

Athing Mu In Budapest? We Preview The Women's Distance Events At Worlds

The World Championships go down in just two days. Here are three massive storylines heading into the women's distance events in Budapest, Hungary.

Aug 17, 2023 by Johanna Gretschel

The World Championships go down in just two days. Here are three massive storylines heading into the women's distance events in Budapest, Hungary. 

Faith Kipyegon goes for historic 1,500m/5k double

Kenyan superstar Faith Kipyegon went on a tear this summer, breaking two world records in the span of a week in the 1,500 meters (3:49.11) and the 5,000 meters (14:05.20), before becoming the first woman to break 4:10 in the mile with an incredible 4:07.64 at the Monaco Diamond League meeting. 

Barring a disaster, it’s hard to see anyone upsetting the reigning Olympic champion as she looks for her fifth global title in the event. The next-fastest woman in the world, Hirut Meshesha of Ethiopia, is nearly five seconds back of the world leader over 1,500 meters.

But Kipyegon is aiming for more: she is also entered in the 5K, where she could potentially become the first woman to win global titles in both the 1,500m and 5K at the same championships. 

Despite her status as world record holder, Kipyegon may have her hands full in the 5K with reigning world champion Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, 2022 10k world champion Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia as well as Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, whose 5K/10K double victory at the Tokyo Olympics is the stuff of legend. 

Then again, remember that Kipyegon’s world record 5K was her first race at that distance in eight years and that her range is simply unparalleled in the modern era. She’s the first woman to hold world records in both the 1,500m and 5,000m at the same time since Paola Pigni of Italy in 1969. If it’s a kicker’s race, Kipyegon will be hard to beat.

Will Athing Mu get on a plane to Budapest?

Unfortunately, one of the biggest storylines around this year’s championships is who isn’t competing? Reigning World and Olympic 800 meter champion Athing Mu is still an unknown as of Wednesday, after her coach Bobby Kersee told the L.A. Times that she may skip worlds to go on vacation.

“It’s in our control if we decide we’re just going to go ahead and train through this year and focus on next year, then that’s what we’re going to do,” he told reporter Andrew Greif. “The training is going well but our thought process, openly, is that we’re going to just train here in L.A. for the next two weeks and the next time she gets on the plane it’ll either be on vacation or to Budapest.”

Last year’s Worlds saw a thrilling 800m women’s final with just 0.08 separating champion Mu from runner-up Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain. Both young stars are just 21 years old with bright futures ahead, but this year’s rivalry may be one-sided. 

With only one 800m race this season, Mu does not top the yearly list, though her 1:55.04 personal best still makes her the fastest entrant. She competed in the 1,500m at the U.S Championships, nabbing runner-up honors behind Nikki Hiltz. Track fans will be curious to see how the over-distance training affects her 800m racing.

Hodgkinson’s 1:55.77 is the fastest time of the year, followed by Kenya’s Mary Moraa, the Commonwealth Games champion who may be the only other woman in the world who can challenge the young Brit for gold if Mu opts out of competition.

Sifan Hassan has entered the chat

No athlete has as much potential for a “here we go again” moment as Sifan Hassan, who has yet to completely outrun her past association with the Nike Oregon Project and banned coach Alberto Salazer. 

Sure, we all remember her incredible double gold in the 5K and 10K at the Tokyo Olympics, but what you really remember is when she ate it at the bell lap in the 1,500m prelim and then split a completely unnecessary 43.7 over the final 300 meters to make sure she won the heat. She doesn’t get mad, she gets even!

This year has already seen her win her marathon debut at the prestigious London Marathon over Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir after stopping multiple times to stretch. She’s entered in the Chicago Marathon, too, a mere six weeks after the World Championships’ conclusion. But that doesn’t mean she’s not going for another epic triple in Budapest. And with season best marks of 3:58.12 for 1,500m, 14:13.42 for 5K and 29:37.80 for 10K, why the heck not?

* Johanna Gretschel is a contributing writer to FloTrack

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