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Ejgayehu Taye and Berihu Aregawi End Their Year On A High

With little more than five hours left of 2021, Ethiopian duo Ejgayehu Taye and Berihu Aregawi managed to add two more world records* to the year’s tally when winning at the Cursa dels Nassos 5km event in Barcelona.

Both athletes had narrowly missed out on medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games earlier in the year, but their 2021 season ended on a high with record-breaking performances.

Taye won in 14:19 to smash the women’s mixed-race record by 24 seconds, while Aregawi shaved two seconds off Joshua Cheptegei’s world record, winning the men’s race in 12:49.

Both athletes were generally unchallenged throughout the race; the clock was all the motivation they needed.

Taye had just two or three male pacemakers for company for most of the way, while Aregawi dropped his pacemaker after the first kilometre, such was his pace.

Taye stopped the clock at 14:19 to win by 45 seconds from Sweden’s Meraf Bahta. Aregawi won by a similarly large margin to cross the line in 12:49, taking two seconds off the PB he set in Lille in November when he missed the world record by just one second.

*Subject to the usual ratification procedure

• Report: Taye and Aregawi break world 5km records in Barcelona

• Results: Cursa dels Nassos 5km

PROFILES

Berihu Aregawi
Born: 28 February 2001
Coach: Hussein Shibo

PBs
3000m: 7:33.39 (2021) / 7:29.24i (2021)
Two miles: 8:11.04 (2021)
5000m: 13:08.91A (2020) / 12:58.65 (irregular track, 2021)
10,000m: 26:50.37 (2021)
5km: 12:49 (2021)
10km: 28:23A (2019)
15km: 46:09 (2019)

Born into a large family in Atsbi Womberta, a small town in the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia, Aregawi ran from a young age.

It wasn’t until he was 14 years old that he started to train properly, thanks to the input of a local coach who went by the name Hailay.

Once he started to follow a training schedule, his performances in local schools competitions improved.

But he also had to balance his running with his school life and home life, which included helping out on the family farm.

With a couple of years of solid training under his belt, Aregawi started to make a name for himself in 2018. In May that year, he beat a strong domestic U20 field over 10,000m, clocking 29:36.7.

The performance led to his selection for the World U20 Championships in Tampere later that year, where, despite being the youngest in the field, he went on to take bronze in the 10,000m in 27:48.41, finishing behind standouts Rhonex Kipruto and Jacob Kiplimo.

Aregawi won gold at the African U18 Championships just two weeks later, and he capped his season by taking silver over 3000m at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

Injury kept him out of action for most of 2019, but he returned to action towards the end of the year and won the highly competitive Great Ethiopian run in 28:23.

He competed sparingly in 2020, due in large part to the lack of competition opportunities brought on by the pandemic.

But in what was his final year as an U20 athlete, he clocked an indoor 3000m PB of 7:35.78, putting him third on the world U20 indoor all-time list, and ran a world-U20-leading time of 13:08.91 over 5000m, despite competing in the altitude of Nairobi.

In 2021 he has finally been able to establish himself as one of the best distance runners in the world. He kicked off his year back in early February with a 7:29.24 clocking over 3000m – the fastest ever indoor performance by a teenager.

He won the Ethiopian 10,000m title in Addis Ababa and finished third in the national trial race for the Olympics, clocking a PB of 26:50.37.

Making his Olympic debut at age 21, he finished just outside the medals in Tokyo, running 27:46.16 for fourth place.

He rebounded little more than a month later, though, and won the 5000m at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich, clocking 12:58.65 on a unique course that looped through the city centre.

Aregawi turned his attention to the roads for the final two months of 2021. In Lille in early November, he came within one second of Joshua Cheptegei’s world 5km record, winning in 12:52.

But in his last race of the year, he took another crack at the mark and succeeded, winning in Barcelona in 12:49.

Ejgayehu Taye
Born: 10 February 2000

PBs
3000m: 8:19.52 (2021) / 8:55.28i (2019)
5000m: 14:14.09 (2021)
5km: 14:19 (2021)
10km: 33:31 (2018)

Few people would have given Ejgayehu Taye a second glance when she first raced at the Ethiopian Championships.

At the 2017 edition in Addis Ababa, the then 17-year-old finished a distant 14th over 5000m in 16:03.8, almost a minute behind the top two finishers, Senbere Teferi and Letesenbet Gidey.

But for Taye, it was still an invaluable experience and it wasn’t long before she was racing on the international stage.

In July 2018 she represented Ethiopia over 5000m at the World U20 Championships in Tampere. She took silver in a PB of 15:30.77, just 0.10 behind gold medallist Beatrice Chebet of Kenya.

She made her Diamond League debut just one month later in Birmingham, where she set a 3000m PB of 8:44.13 to finish eighth – comfortably in the first half of the field, and ahead of several experienced international competitors.

She ended her breakthrough season with a victory over 10km on the roads in Saarbrucken on New Year’s Eve.

More overseas opportunities followed in 2019 and she set PBs over 3000m indoors (8:55.28) and outdoors (8:40.96), as well as a 5000m PB of 14:53.16

Like many athletes, she skipped the entire 2020 season and instead saved herself for the postponed Olympic year.

At the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo in June, Taye booked her spot on the team for Tokyo when finishing second in the 5000m in a huge PB of 14:14.09, elevating her to sixth on the world all-time list behind five of the most successful Ethiopian distance runners in history (Letesenbet Gidey, Tirunesh Dibaba, Almaz Ayana, Meseret Defar and Gudaf Tsegay).

Taye acquitted herself well on her Olympic debut, finishing fifth in a high-quality final, less than three seconds shy of a podium place.

She maintained her strong form in her final three Diamond League appearances of the track season, clocking an Ethiopian 3000m record of 8:19.52 in Paris, placing second over 5000m in Brussels and then finishing third over that same distance at the Diamond League final in Zurich.

Exactly three years to the day of her last road race, Taye lined up in Barcelona, eager to break the world 5km record.

She succeeded in her mission, smashing the mark for a mixed-race by 24 seconds, winning in 14:19.

STATS

Women’s 5km world record progression (mixed race):
14:48 Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui (KEN) Prague, 8 September 2018
14:43 Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) Monaco, 14 February 2021
14:19 Ejgayehu Taye (ETH) Barcelona, 31 December 2021

Men’s 5km world record progression:
13:30 Benard Kibet Lagat (KEN) Prague, 8 September 2018
13:29 Julien Wanders (SUI) Monaco, 17 February 2019
13:29 Edward Cheserek (KEN) Carlsbad, 6 April 2019
13:22 Robert Keter (KEN) Lille, 9 November 2019
13:18 Rhonex Kipruto (KEN) Valencia, 12 January 2020
12:51 Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) Monaco, 16 February 2020

Women’s 5km world all-time top 10:
14:19 Ejgayehu Taye (ETH) Barcelona, 31 December 2021
14:29 Senbere Teferi (ETH) Herzogenaurach, 12 September 2021
14:32 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Prague, 9 September 2017
14:39 Dawit Seyaum (ETH) Lille, 6 November 2021
14:41 Beth Potter (GBR) Barrowford 3 April 2021
14:42 Norah Jeruto (KEN) Lille, 6 November 2021
14:43 Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) Monaco, 14 February 2021
14:44 Sifan Hassan (NED) Monaco, 17 February 2019
14:46 Meseret Defar (ETH) Carlsbad, 9 April 2006
14:46 Violah Jepchumba (BRN) Prague, 10 September 2016

Men’s 5km world all-time top 10:
12:49 Berihu Aregawi (ETH) Barcelona, 31 December 2021
12:51 Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) Monaco, 16 February 2020
13:00 Sammy Kipketer (KEN) Carlsbad, 26 March 2000
13:06 Jacob Krop (KEN) Herzogenaurach, 12 September 2021
13:09 Muktar Edris (ETH) Herzogenaurach, 12 September 2021
13:10 Dejene Birhanu (ETH) Carlsbad, 3 April 2005
13:11 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) Carlsbad, 11 April 2010
13:11 Dejen Gebremeskel (ETH) Carlsbad, 3 April 2011
13:12 William Mutwol (KEN) Carlsbad, 29 March 1992
13:13 Hosea Kiplangat (UGA) Herzogenaurach, 12 September 2021

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