Athletics: Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir betters own mark

Jepchirchir sets half marathon record but Cheptegei fades to fourth at world c'ships

Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir is delighted as she crosses the finishing line in a world record time of 1:05:16.
Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir is delighted as she crosses the finishing line in a world record time of 1:05:16.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

GDYNIA (Poland) • Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir lowered her own world record for an all-women's half marathon at the world championships in Gdynia yesterday but serial record-breaker Joshua Cheptegei missed out on a medal in the men's race.

The 27-year-old Jepchirchir, who also won world half marathon gold in 2016, produced a final sprint to take the women's title in 1hr 5min 16sec. That bettered the previous best of 1:05:34 set by Jepchirchir herself in Prague on Sept 5.

She came home just two seconds clear of Germany's Melat Yisak Kejeta, who smashed the European women-only record to take silver in 1:05:18, with Ethiopia's Yalemzerf Yehualaw a further second behind.

"It's unbelievable. My goal was to win this race," Jepchirchir said. "I did not expect that I would beat the world record, but I realised that it could happen when we passed 20km.

"It was a little bit windy, but the course was good for me."

On a cold and windy morning, a group of favourites broke away early during the four-lap race but three of them had falls to disappear from contention.

Defending champion Netsanet Gudeta's race almost came to an abrupt stop as the leaders took a 90-degree turn onto the seafront, where she fell and lost several seconds to the leaders.

It was a gap she would never close, the Ethiopian slipping farther behind during the third lap.

Turkey's Yasemin Can led a group of seven through 10km in 30:47 after which Jepchirchir began to take control.

The Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh, world record holder in a mixed race (1:04:31), then tangled with Joyciline Jepkosgei and both crashed to the ground, leaving Jepchirchir, Kejeta and Yehualaw to battle it out in the final sprint.

Jacob Kiplimo took the men's race in a new championship record of 58min 49sec but his Ugandan compatriot Cheptegei could only finish fourth.

Kiplimo, who turns 20 next month, had never raced the 21.1 km distance before but he showed nerves of steel as he and the Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie broke away from the leading pack after the 15km mark.

The 2017 world junior cross country champion then pushed clear in the last few metres to edge out Kandie by five seconds and secure his first major title.

The Ethiopian Amedework Walelegn took bronze, coming in another 14 seconds behind. Cheptegei finished fourth in 59:21, over half a minute behind Kiplimo.

The 24-year-old had made only three outings this year but each time had broken a world record.

In February he claimed the world 5km road record in Monaco. Then, after a period of coronavirus lockdown at home, he returned to Monaco and, in his first race back, wiped almost two seconds off Kenenisa Bekele's 16-year-old track world-record time over the 5,000m as he clocked 12:35.36.

Earlier this month in Valencia, he smashed Bekele's 10,000m track world record in 26:11.00, taking off over six seconds.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2020, with the headline 'Kenyan betters own mark'. Print Edition | Subscribe