Eugene the Perfect Setting for Gudaf Tsegay’s Record-Breaking Run of Redemption

athletics, Eugene, Gudaf Tsegay, Record-Breaking Run, World Athletics Championships

When Gudaf Tsegay overtook Sifan Hassan in the final stretch of the 10,000m at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest last month, leading her nation to a podium sweep, many athletes would have been content with one gold medal. But Tsegay had her eyes set on redemption and a second gold.

Her disappointment came in the 5000m race, where she faded to 13th in Budapest, leaving her frustrated and driven to make amends. The 22-year-old Ethiopian, despite the setback, knew she had the potential to do something special. Her determination led her to break the world 5000m record previously held by Faith Kipyegon, shaving five seconds off the mark, clocking 14:00.21 at the Prefontaine Classic, part of the Wanda Diamond League Final.

Gudaf Tsegay on her way to breaking the world 5000m record in Eugene (© Matthew Quine)

“After the 10,000m in Budapest, I had some pain under the bottom of my foot,” Tsegay explained. “I think it had something to do with the hot weather.” The physical strain and mental frustration kept her awake at night, but it also fueled her desire to achieve something remarkable.

Her husband and coach, Hilufe Yihdego, had previously suggested that she could approach the 14-minute barrier, especially after her impressive indoor performance earlier this year. In Birmingham, Tsegay missed the world indoor record for 3000m by a mere 0.09 seconds.

Despite challenging conditions for record-breaking, Tsegay remained unfazed. She was determined to leave her mark on the 5000m distance in 2023. With two pacemakers, Elise Cranny and Sinclaire Johnson from the US, and her training partner Birke Haylom’s support, Tsegay set out to break the record.

Haylom, who had already run the 1500m the previous day, was determined to assist Tsegay in her record-breaking attempt. The two have trained together extensively, and their close partnership played a crucial role in Tsegay’s success.

Gudaf Tsegay on her way to the world 10,000m title as a fallen Sifan Hassan looks on in Budapest (© Getty Images)

The race was far from straightforward. While Tsegay initially remained on pace, world cross-country champion Beatrice Chebet stayed close on her heels. With about 1400 meters to go and having to battle a headwind while leading the race, it seemed Tsegay might falter. Chebet was hot on her tail, keeping the pressure on.

However, Tsegay found her second wind with two laps to go, closing the gap on the pacemakers and pulling away from Chebet. Despite her evident effort and determination, Tsegay maintained her momentum. As she crossed the finish line, it was not a matter of whether she would break the record but whether she could finish in under 14 minutes.

Lapped runners slightly hindered her sub-14-minute finish, but Tsegay nevertheless celebrated her first senior outdoor world record, completing the race in 14:00.21.

For Tsegay, Eugene holds a special place in her heart. It was here in 2014 that she secured her first major medal, winning world U20 silver over 1500m. Her gold-winning journey continued when she returned to the nearby city of Portland in 2016, winning world indoor bronze over 1500m as a teenager.

Gudaf Tsegay in action at the World Indoor Championships (© Getty Images)

In 2018, she made her 5000m debut in Eugene, and last year, she struck gold in the same city at the World Championships over the same distance. Her history in Eugene makes it a special place for her, and her latest record-breaking achievement has added to the venue’s significance.

Tsegay’s incredible performance in Eugene has brought her closer to breaking the 14-minute barrier for the 5000m, a feat that no woman has achieved yet. Her determination and dedication to the sport make her a strong contender to be the first to break this monumental barrier, whether it’s in Oregon or elsewhere.

In the world of athletics, records are meant to be broken, and Gudaf Tsegay has set her sights on rewriting history in the 5000m distance.


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