Coe ‘blown away’ by brilliant women’s 1500m

‘That was one of the best races I’ve ever seen, I was blown away, I sat there trying to pinch myself.’

Sebastian Coe, the head of World athletics and twice Olympic champion over the distance, described the women’s World 1,500 metres final won by Kenyan Faith Kipyegon on Monday as one of the best races he has ever seen.

Kipyegon, also a double Olympic metric mile champion, along with Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay and Briton Laura Muir, set an astonishing pace from the gun and barely let up before the Kenyan forged clear to win in a fleet three minutes, 52.96 seconds.

Tsegay took second and Muir finally bagged a world medal after finishing fifth, fourth and fifth in the previous three 1,500m world finals.

“That was one of the best races I’ve ever seen, I was blown away, I sat there trying to pinch myself,” Coe told journalists on Tuesday.

“At one point I figured out that it was still on world record base for 800 at about 575. I looked at the first lap at 51.1 seconds and I am thinking ‘what?!'”

“I have to say it was a really interesting race because for Tsegay to decide that she’s going to burn Kipyegon off at the beginning that’s not really going to happen. The biggest call was Laura deciding ‘do I stay with this pace?'”

“She was brave. Her decision to actually go toe to toe and be in the mix right the way through – it was one of the great performances.”

Absent from the field on Monday was South African Caster Semenya, who is not permitted to race distances from 400m to a mile under World Athletics’ differences of sexual development (DSD) rule which tries to rule out those with an “unfair” level of testosterone from racing in women’s races.

Semenya, 31, will line up in the 5,000m heats on Wednesday 13 years after she came to the world’s attention – and sparked a still-running debate about DSD athletes – by winning 800m gold at the 2009 World Championships as a teenager.

Two other African DSD athletes, Beatrice Masilingi of Namibia and Niger’s Aminatou Seyni, will race in the 200m semi-finals later on Wednesday and Coe said he was happy to see them in Eugene.

“My whole approach to this has been around inclusivity but we have always been guided by the science and that is clear that testosterone is the key determinant in performance,” he said.

“Of course, I recognise that with DSD and with transgender, these are societal issues, but my responsibility is to protect the integrity of women’s sport.”

Coe said the 400-to-mile range regulation was not “set in stone” but at the moment those are the distances where they have been able to make a scientific case to show the testosterone advantage.

“This is not about an individual, it’s not about a country, it’s not about a continent, it’s about a set of regulations that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld as proportionate, necessary, realistic and they are here to stay,” he said.

Surprisingly, given Semenya’s long and high-profile battle with the sport’s governing body, Coe said he had never met her. “We would recognise each other,” he said.

“She’s eligible to be here and if she chooses to compete in a race that is not a restricted distance that is entirely up to her and she will get the same treatment and the same services as any athlete.”

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