Tag Archives: Francine Niyonsaba

Francine Niyonsaba’s reinvention as a world-beating distance runner

With her performances in 2021, the Burundi has impressively moved up from 800m to longer distances.

But will her record-breaking feats accelerate change which could end her career? The message dropped into my email inbox. My request to interview Francine Niyonsaba had been approved, but with one condition – I was not allowed to ask her about the increasingly hot topic of differences in sex development (DSD).

We might not have spoken about the subject directly, but it never felt far away during the conversation and there has barely been a performance from the Burundian this year which has gone by without a related comment being made.

That is because those performances have been so good. She became the first athlete who identifies as having DSD to officially break a world record when clocking 5:21.26 for 2000m to take over two seconds from the former mark.

It ended a season of high achievement which included the 5000m Diamond League title and the fifth-fastest 3000m time in history. Not bad for someone who is pretty new to the distance running game.

Francine Niyonsaba leads Ejgayehu Taye (Diamond League AG)

That she is running further, of course, is not through choice. The two-time world indoor champion as well as Olympic and world silver medallist for 800m can no longer compete at her favoured event under the World Athletics rules, upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which came into force in 2019 and were famously challenged by Caster Semenya.

They decree that DSD athletes are not allowed to compete internationally between 400m and a mile unless they take medication to reduce their high levels of testosterone.

Niyonsaba’s performances – she was also fifth in the Olympic 10,000m final in Tokyo in what was just her second time racing the distance – and those of the Olympic silver medal-winning, world junior record-breaking sprinter Christine Mboma over 200m have raised questions as to whether or not the rules should widen out to other events. As Sean Ingle of The Guardian wrote, those athletes are “faced with a devilish catch-22.

The faster she [Mboma] runs, the more she provides evidence that she has an unfair advantage as an athlete with DSD”. Understandably, Niyonsaba does not want to fuel any fire but, at the same time, she is very clearly making a point. “They tried to stop me.

Tried to end my dreams,” she tweeted after her 5000m Diamond League victory in Zurich. “But how could I allow them to snatch my dreams away? So I worked hard and resisted those forces who tried to stop me. And here I am!” Speaking with her, there is an apparent determination rather than bitterness. A preference to accentuate the positive.

Asked if she would like to return to the 800m, Niyonsaba is short and to the point. “I would never go back. I keep looking forward.”

Francine Niyonsaba wins the 2018 world indoor 800m (Mark Shearman)

Even when quizzed as to the two-lap performance (and there have been many) of which she is most proud, the 28-year-old replies: “I have forgotten about the 800m because I am now focusing on the longer distances.

“Since I was born I have not had an easy life and I love challenges. I face them with a lot of determination and perseverance. To transform myself from 800m to longer distances was not easy. “I think life is full of challenges but I always say that the challenge is not a barrier but an opportunity to do better.

I still do not know if I like the long distance more than the 800m, but I love challenges. “I won’t think too much about it because it is what it is. At first it was not easy and I got a lot of injuries but I kept believing in myself.”

She adds: “I don’t know [if I will be better at 5000m or 10,000m] but I just love running long distances. Every moment I’m racing, or training, I just love running and I’m happy doing what I do. I am going to keep training hard, trying to perform well.

The good thing about it is that I have a lot to improve – I’m still learning and am sure that I can go a lot faster in the future.”

Francine Niyonsaba (Getty)

Having spent much of her career based in Oregon, Niyonsaba has now relocated to train in Kenya “because Kenyans are often champions in the longer distance”.

There is excitement about returning to the west coast of America for next year’s World Championships. “Eugene will feel like home,” she says. “To be back in Eugene for the World Championship would be fantastic for me and I hope I will be there.”

World Athletics president Seb Coe insists the DSD rules are “here to stay”. But will they have changed by the time Oregon comes around? What’s for certain is that this is an issue which is not going away any time soon.

Source: athleticsweekly.com

World records for Ruth Chepngetich and Francine Niyonsaba Ratified

Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich Women’s world half marathon record and Francine Niyonsaba from Burudi 2000m record have been ratified by World Athletics.

Chepngetich got the Half marathon record of 1:04.02 at this years Istanbul Half Marathon while Niyonsaba got the 2000m women record of 5:21.56 at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb on 14 September.

 

Francine Niyonsaba lands Home and brings Bujumbura to a stand still

Hundreds of Burundians turned up at Bujumbura airport on Wednesday to welcome home Francine Niyonsaba after her recent successes overseas. The Burundian athlete won the 5,000 metres Diamond League title in Zurich on 8 September before setting a new 2,000m world record six days later at a meeting in Croatia.

Earlier this year, Niyonsaba, a world and Olympic 800m silver medallist, switched away from her preferred distance after being banned from competing between 400m and 1500m because of naturally high levels of testosterone.

“I did the extraordinary, and I now feel like an extraordinary person in the world,” the 28-year-old told reporters after landing.

“It is the first time that this cup (Diamond League trophy) has come to Burundi and now a Burundian woman is the fastest in the world over 2,000m – it is a blessing for my family and my country.”

Her success came after a disappointing Olympics where she was fifth in the 10,000m and disqualified from the heats of the 5,000m for stepping off the track.

The crowds of people lined the streets despite recent attacks, which have been claimed by rebels, on the airport in the Burundian capital and deadly grenade attacks in the city on Monday.

“I am very happy – it is a blessing to be welcomed by different people,” she said. “It is a joy that I can’t explain also because when I won, I saw all Burundians in the country and abroad celebrating my victory.

“That gives me power and happiness to feel that I managed the extraordinary. I am grateful to all who supported me, the coaches in Burundi and in Kenya where I train. They all played a role in writing this history.”

She promised to work harder to bring home a title from next year’s World Athletics Championship in the United States “to make Burundians happy again.

” Under the latest World Athletics regulations, Niyonsaba is classified as having ‘Differences of Sexual Development’ – or ‘DSD’ – and has been forced to move away from the 800m after refusing to take testosterone-reducing drugs.

Her 2,000m world record of five minutes 21.56 seconds was two seconds faster than the record set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba indoors in 2017, while also breaking the outdoor record set by Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan in 1994.

Joyce Tele runs the fastest time in the world at 15km Nocturna Valencia Race

After leading 1-2 Kenyan podium finish at the International du Puy en Velay Road race a forth night ago, Joyce Tele was at it again as she beat the 2016 Rio Olympics 800m silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba at the 8th edition of 15km Nocturna Valencia Mediolanum race that was held on Saturday (18) in Valencia.

Tele fought off a strong field that included the current Elgeyo Marakwet cross country champion, Gladys Chepkurui and the world 2,000m record holder Niyonsaba.

Niyonsaba became the sixth fastest woman over the 3000m in history at the Paris Diamond League Meeting and she is also among several athletes banned from competing between 400m and 1500m because of naturally high levels of testosterone.

Joyce Tele and Gladys Chepkurui at the start of the 15k Nocturna / Photos: Talentum

The Burudian could not match Tele who on her part has conquered the short road races. She beat the two as she cut the tape in the fastest time this year and in a personal best of 14:24 and she was followed by Chepkurui who pulled 48:30 to come home in second with 2017 world silver medallist closing the podium first three finishes in 50:37

LEADING RESULTS

15KM WOMEN

  1. Joyce Tele                  (KEN) 47:24
  2. Gladys Chepkurui    (KEN) 48:30
  3. Francine Niyonsaba (BUR) 50:37

Francine Niyonsaba sets new 2,000m world record in Zagreb

Olympic 800m silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba set a new 2,000m world record at the Continental Tour Gold meeting that was held on Tuesday (14) night in Zagreb.

Her time of 5:21.56 seconds was two seconds faster than the record set by Genzebe Dibaba indoors in 2017.

The world 800m silver medallist, became the sixth fastest woman over the 3000m in history at the Paris Diamond League Meeting  is also among several athletes banned from competing between 400m and 1500m because of naturally high levels of testosterone.

However she was forced to move up in distance due to the new rules relating to testosterone levels and at the Tokyo Games where she finished in fifth in the 10,000m final in 30:41.93.

Her world record run, which also broke the outdoor record set by Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan in 1994, came a week after claiming victory over 5,000m in the Diamond League meeting in Zurich.

The 2,000m has never been held at an Olympics or World Championships but is often featured at track and field meetings.

Hellen Obiri to headline Great North Run

Olympic 5000m silver medalist Hellen Obiri will headline the 40th edition of the Great North Run half marathon that will be held on Sunday (12) from Newcastle to South Shields in England.

The 31 year-old made her half marathon debut at the Istanbul Half Marathon last April where she ran an exceptional 1:04.51 making her the fourth-fastest Kenyan of all-time.

The versatile Obiri is the only woman in history to win world titles in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country.

Obiri has been defeated three times recently on the track by Namibia’s Francine Niyonsaba including yesterday’s race in Zuric Meet where she finished second and called it a day on the track events as she now puts her energy on road races.

Obiri will face off with Tokyo 2020 marathon bronze medallist, Molly Seidel from United States who comes to this race with a personal best of 1:08.29 that she got early this year at the Atlanta Motor Speedway 2021.

The race course record of 1:04.28 that was set in 2019 by Brigid Kosgei from Kenya is within her reach considering her personal best during her debut.

Francine Niyonsaba defeats Hellen Obiri in Zurich

Namibia’s Francine Niyonsaba defeated Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri from Kenya at the finals of the Wanda Diamond League that was held on Wednesday at the Zurich Diamond League.

Niyonsaba outkicked Obiri over the final 560m lap around to cut the tape in 14:28.98.

For the third time in two weeks Niyonsaba outkicked Kenya’s Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Hellen Obiri to take the honours on a curtain-raiser evening before Thursday’s main event that features a galaxy of stars.

“I love challenges. I have a lot of resilience and determination,” Niyonsaba said. “I stayed behind most of the race, this was my tactic. I am still learning after switching from 800m.”

Niyonsaba time of 14:28.98 will not be recognised as official because the race was run on a temporary, four-laned 560 metre, banked track in the city centre.

“It was a new experience, we did not know where we can start to kick and accelerate,” Obiri said.

Hellen Obiri to battle Francine Niyonsaba in Zurich meeting

Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri will battle Francine Niyonsaba  from Namibia at the finals of the Wanda Diamond League that will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, as the world’s best athletes descend on Zurich for a two-day feast of athletics to decide who will get their hands on the Diamond Trophy 2021.

Niyonsaba has had a successful reinvention as a long-distance runner with a new Burundian national record of 14:25.34, almost 30 seconds inside her previous personal best, to win the 5000m.

The Rio 2016 800m silver medallist switched to longer distances after being found to have elevated testosterone levels.

Obiri was beaten by Francine in Brussels over the same distance and it will be a tough call for her to overturn this in regard to Namibia’s current form.

Three more Kenyans have been lined up for the final including the 2017 World Cross Country senior Champion Lilian Kasait Rengeruk. Kasait comes to this race with a seasonal best of 14:30.32.  Beatrice Chebet who is the 2018 World U20 Champion is also in the list as well as Eva Cherono who is also the 2019 World Cross Country silver medallist Champion.

Ethiopia will be represented by Elgayehu Taye who holds the fastest time on paper of 14:14.19 and Fantu Worku who has a season best of 14:26.80

 LEADING RESULTS

WOMEN 5000M

  1. Elgayehu Taye                (ETH)   14:14.09
  2. Francine Niyonsaba      (NAM) 14:25.34
  3. Hellen Obiri                     (KEN)  14:26.23
  4. Fantu Worku                    (ETH)  14:26.80
  5. Lilian Kasait Rengeruk   (KEN) 14:30.32
  6. Beatrice Chebet                (KEN) 14:34.55
  7. Eva Cherono                      (KEN) 14:30.77

 

Francine Niyonsaba strikes again in 5000m race in Brussels

The 2017 World 800m silver medallist Champion, Francine Niyonsaba was on more fire as she defeated two-time Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri from kenya at at the Allianz Memorial Van Damme in the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.

Niyonsaba continued her successful reinvention as a long-distance runner with a new Burundian national record of 14:25.34, almost 30 seconds inside her previous personal best, to win the 5000m.

The Rio 2016 800m silver medallist switched to longer distances after being found to have elevated testosterone levels, and she produced a devastating sprint finish to win the race and forcing Ethiopia’s Elgayehu Taye to settle in second place in 14:25.63 with two-time world champion, Obiri coming home third in a season best of 14:26.23.

“It was fantastic to run here. I enjoyed every second of it and the national record is the cherry on top. To be able to run for a crowd was funny. It really helped me,” said Niyonsaba.

“I still do not know if I like long distances more than the 800m, but I love challenges. I won’t think too much about it because it is what it is. I’m still learning and am sure that I can go a lot faster in the future.”

The 2016 and 2017 World Indoor gold medallist Champion broke three records in Paris meeting, which was a world-leading time, national record and Meet Record and made history’s sixth fastest outdoor performer.

Francine Niyonsaba breaks three records in Paris

Burudi’s Francine Niyonsaba became the sixth fastest woman over the 3000m in history at the Paris Diamond League Meeting that was held on Saturday (28) at the Stade Charlety in Paris.

The 2017 World 800m silver medallist Champion produced the most eye-catching performance of the day when she  held of the challenge of the 2018 World U20 Championships silver medallist, Ejgayehu Taye from Ethiopia, crossing the line in a world lead of 8:19.09.

The 2016 and 2017 World Indoor gold medallist Champion broke three records in this race which is a world-leading time, national record and Meet Record and made history’s sixth fastest outdoor performer.

Taye who is also from the Tokyo Olympics and could not qualify to the finals as she finished fourth in heat held on to come home second in National Record and personal best of 8:19.8.

Margaret Chelimo kipkemboi from Kenya closed the podium three first finishes with a personal best of 8:21.53.

United States Elise Cranny and Ethiopia’s Fantu Worku came home with personal bests in fourth and fifth place in 8:30.30 and 8:30.76.

Another Kenyan Beatrice Chebet finished in tenth position in 8:44.27