Kipyegon, the double Olympic champion became the first female in history to win both the 1500m and 5000m at the World Championships in Budapest in August, all after setting three different world records in an unprecedented 50-day sequence.   

Acknowledging her prize, Kipyegon said, “Today is a beautiful closure of an amazing year for me. I am honoured that my performances on the track have been recognized by the athletics community. The support of my family, team, training partners and fellow competitors fuels me to work hard and chase my dreams and ambitions. I hope my achievements motivate and inspire many girls to do the same.”   

Kipyegon opened her European season by taking almost a second off Genzebe Dibaba’s near eight-year-old world 1500m record, before stepping up to the 5000m just a week later in the Paris Diamond League. Her run in the French capital, a first outing over the distance in nearly eight years, saw the Kenyan take that record too in 14:05.20. 

Arguably the most impressive of them all came in Monaco in mid-July where she took over four seconds off Sifan Hassan’s 2019 world One Mile record, becoming the first woman in history to break the 4:10 barrier. 

4:07.64 was her final time, leaving her almost 50m clear of her nearest opposition. With the mantle of heavy favourite for Hungary established, the 29-year-old duly delivered, adding a third 1500m world title to a maiden 5000m gold. Kipyegon capped off a long season with world One Mile bronze in Riga, her only defeat in any final throughout the whole of 2023.  

Compatriot 19-year-old Faith Cherotich capped a breakthrough year over the barriers with the 2023 Women’s Rising Star Award. The 2022 World U20 3000m Steeplechase champion ran a six-second personal best in the senior 2023 World Championship final to earn bronze and become the youngest medallist in the event’s history. Weeks later she matched that position in the Diamond League final, breaking nine minutes (8:59.65) and clocking the second-fastest time by any U20 ever.  

Cherotich was thankful for the recognition saying, “It was a special year for me, winning my first medal in a senior championship. I am happy to win the Rising Star award. I hope next year can be a special year again.” 

Fellow Global Sports Communication athlete Letesenbet Gidey won the International Fair Play Award.

It recognizes the sportsmanship and empathy she showed shortly after winning the world 10,000m silver in Budapest, returning to comfort friend and Olympic champion Sifan Hassan. The Dutch athlete had fallen dramatically in the final moments of that final when leading, with Gidey forgoing any celebrations to first console her friend and long-time challenger.  

Five others honoured

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa was also crowned ‘World Athlete of the Year’ by the international body.

The 27-year-old Tigist smashed the world record by two minutes and 14 seconds, marking the most significant improvement on the record in four decades.

She set a record pace from the gun, completing the first half of the marathon in 1:06:20, and even accelerating more during the second half with an impressive time of 1:05:33 for a negative split. To put this achievement in perspective, only seven women throughout the year managed to surpass this time in a standalone half marathon.

Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya also broke the marathon world record clocking a 2:00:35 eclipsing Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01:09. Kiptum’s first three marathons are all sub-2:02.

World Athletes of the Year for 2023

Women’s track: Faith Kipyegon, KEN, 1500m/mile/5000m
Women’s field: Yulimar Rojas, VEN, triple jump
Women’s non-stadia: Tigist Assefa, ETH, marathon
Men’s track: Noah Lyles, USA, 100m/200m
Men’s field: Mondo Duplantis, SWE, pole vault
Men’s non stadia: Kelvin Kiptum, KEN, marathon