Lamecha Girma’s perseverance paid off. A four-time global silver medallist, making his fourth appearance at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais, the 22-year-old secured the spotlight with a sensational world indoor record-breaking run.

No doubt aided by a brilliant head-to-head battle with Spain’s Mohamed Katir at this season’s fifth World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting on Wednesday (15), Ethiopia’s Girma shaved almost a second from the 25-year-old world indoor 3000m record, clocking 7:23.81*.

The previous record of 7:24.90 had been set by Kenya’s Daniel Komen in Budapest on 6 February 1998. Katir was also inside the old record mark, running 7:24.68 for the runner-up spot.

“I am so happy with this result,” said Girma, who adds this latest honour to a CV that features Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver and two world silver medals in the same discipline, as well as a world indoor 3000m medal of the same colour. “I was talking about this world record attempt for the past three days.

“My brother is my coach. He told me I had it in me and of course, I believed him. I felt really good in training and it was my best form ever, plus the crowd was very supportive today.”

Paced through 1000m in 2:28.49, the race leaders were right on schedule at the Arena Stade Couvert. As Girma took over the lead at the 2000m mark, the clock showed 4:58.38.

“The pacers and the Wavelight were perfect – it all clicked,” a delighted Girma said. “I have raced here several times in this meeting. The atmosphere and the crowd never disappoint. I hope the record stays for a long time.”

Lamecha Girma
Born: 26 November 2000
1500m: 3:33.77 (2020)
2000m: 4:57.87 (2020)
3000m: 7:23.81i (2023)
3000m steeplechase: 7:58.68 (2022)

Hailing from the Asella region of Ethiopia – the same area that produced stars such as Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba – Lamecha Girma started out as a 1500m runner, training at the Tirunesh Dibaba Athletics Club. But his path to becoming a global medal-winner really started when club coach Kefyalew Alemu noticed Girma’s height and long stride and suggested he might be good at the steeplechase.

The teenager then moved to the Youth Sport Academy in Addis Ababa to be guided by Teshome Kebede, the national coach for the steeplechase.

Girma’s 2019 season started promisingly, albeit low-key, with an 8:34 victory at the Assela Clubs Championships. It was followed by a bronze medal at the African U20 Championships in Abidjan. He then headed to Addis Ababa to compete at the senior Ethiopian Championships – his first senior-level competition – but he fell and twisted his ankle, so was unable to finish.

Fortunately, he was still invited by the national federation to participate in Ethiopia’s World Championships trial race in Hengelo two months later. Clocking 8:08.18, he finished more than six seconds ahead of his nearest opponent to earn his place on Ethiopia’s team for the World Athletics Championships in Doha.

Despite some promising results at Diamond League meetings in the lead-up, Girma tried to keep his expectations low in Doha.

“It was my first race at the World Championships, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I had trained hard for a good result, but I didn’t expect to win.”

He came so close. Just 0.01 separated gold from silver – Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto taking the title in 8:01.35 and Girma securing the first in what would prove to be an impressive series of silvers with 8:01.36.

“I’m happy with the silver medal; I couldn’t do any more than that,” added Girma. “I am thrilled to be the first Ethiopian to win a steeplechase medal at the World Championships.”

He was shortlisted for the Rising Star award at that year’s World Athletics Awards in Monaco, an honour that his compatriot Selemon Barega won. But Girma went on to claim the Young Athlete of the Year award from the Confederation of African Athletics.

In 2020, Girma competed at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais for the first time, finishing fourth as he tested his speed in the 3000m. He returned 12 months later, making his 2021 debut with a 7:27.98 performance – one of the fastest times in history, but not enough to beat his compatriots Getnet Wale and Barega.

His focus was on that year’s Olympics, however, and once there he emulated his feat in Doha, claiming another silver medal in a race won by Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali.

Then came 2022 and another season opener at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais, this time one that was rewarded with a win in 7:30.54. His campaign continued at World Indoor Tour Gold meetings in Torun and Madrid before the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, where Girma proved that his major medal-winning ability was not limited only to the steeplechase.

Engaging in a last-lap sprint with Barega, the pair claimed an Ethiopian one-two. Barega got gold in 7:41.38 and Girma another silver in 7:41.63.

Outdoors, Girma improved his 3000m steeplechase PB in Ostrava, clocking a 7:58.68 Ethiopian record for a time that places him 12th on the world all-time list.

He capped the year with another world silver medal, finishing runner-up to El Bakkali at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

That was Girma’s most recent result as he lined up for the 3000m for the fourth time at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais on Wednesday evening. The world record always in his sights, Girma wasn’t willing to be overshadowed as Spain’s Mohamed Katir tracked his every move.

As Katir kicked, so did Girma, who beat both his rival and the clock to post a time of 7:23.81 and join his compatriots Gebrselassie, Bekele and Dibaba in becoming a world record-breaker.


World indoor 3000m record progression
7:39.2h Emiel Puttemans (BEL) Berlin, 18 Feb 1973
7:37.31 Moses Kiptanui (KEN) Seville, 20 Feb 1992
7:35.15 Moses Kiptanui (KEN) Gent, 12 Feb 1995
7:30.72 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Stuttgart, 4 Feb 1996
7:26.15 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Karlsruhe, 25 Jan 1998
7:24.90 Daniel Komen (KEN) Budapest, 6 Feb 1998
7:23.81* Lamecha Girma (ETH) Lievin, 15 Feb 2023

Men’s world indoor 3000m all-time top 10
7:23.81 Lamecha Girma (ETH) Lievin, 15 Feb 2023
7:24.68 Mohamed Katir (ESP) Lievin, 15 Feb 2023
7:24.90 Daniel Komen (KEN) Budapest, 6 Feb 1998
7:24.98 Getnet Wale (ETH) Lievin, 9 Feb 2021
7:26.10 Selemon Barega (ETH) Lievin, 9 Feb 2021
7:26.15 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Karlsruhe, 25 Jan 1998
7:26.20 Berihu Aregawi (ETH) Karlsruhe, 28 Jan 2022
7:27.80 Yenew Alamirew (ETH) Stuttgart, 5 Feb 2011
7:28.00 Augustine Kiprono Choge (KEN) Stuttgart, 5 Feb 2011
7:28.24 Yared Nuguse (USA) Boston, 27 Jan 2023

*Subject to the usual ratification procedure

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