Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji and USA’s Hobbs Kessler both set world records to win two thrilling road mile races at the World Athletics Road Running Championships Riga 23 on Sunday (1).
First, 21-year-old Welteji ran 4:20.98* to win the women’s race ahead of her compatriot Freweyni Hailu and Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, and then 20-year-old Kessler led a close men’s race, running 3:56.13* ahead of Britain’s Callum Elson and USA’s Sam Prakel.
In the women’s race, Kipyegon – the multiple world champion and world record-holder on the track – went straight to the front and the field quickly strung out as she forged ahead. But she was joined by Welteji, Hailu and Kenya’s Nelly Chepchirchir and it was clear that those four athletes would be battling for the three places on the podium.
Looking a little less comfortable, Kipyegon was glancing over her shoulder and as they passed the Freedom Monument in the Latvian capital, Welteji made a move. Kicking away, the world 1500m silver medallist strode to her first senior world title in 4:20.98, improving on the inaugural women’s road mile record of 4:27.97 set by Nikki Hiltz in Des Moines in April. Hailu passed Kipyegon to claim the silver – 4:23.06 to 4:24.13.
The men’s mile lived up to its status as the most wide-open event of the World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga as Kessler took a surprising victory.
In a close and frantic finish with the first nine men placing within two seconds of one another, Elson took an equally surprising silver in a PB of 3:56.41, finishing just 0.02 ahead of former world record-holder Prakel, who took bronze.
Kenya’s world U20 mile record-holder Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot led during the early stages, but the teenager was eventually caught by the rest of the field. With the finish in sight, Kessler positioned himself at the front of the large lead pack with Prakel close behind.
Elson started to charge on the other side, but neither could catch the former US high school phenomenon, who broke the tape in 3:56.13, taking five seconds off the previous world record set by Prakel earlier this year.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure