Francine Niyonsaba broke the world 2000m record at the Boris Hanzekovic Memorial, clocking 5:21.56 at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb on Tuesday (14).
The Burundian, who last week won the Wanda Diamond League title at 5000m, followed the pacemakers for the first three laps, passing through 400m in 1:04.50 and 800m in 2:09.22. The half-way point was reached in 2:41.37, putting Niyonsaba and Ethiopian rival Freweyni Hailu on pace to break the world record of 5:23.75, set indoors by Genzebe Dibaba in 2017.
Niyonsaba went through the bell in 4:20.23, meaning she needed a final lap of about 63 seconds to claim the world record. Hailu tried to move into the lead on the back straight, but Niyonsaba kept her at bay and then kicked for home, eventually crossing the line in 5:21.56 to win by more than four seconds.
Hailu finished second in 5:25.86, the third-fastest outdoor time in history. Before today, the fastest ever outdoor clocking for the distance was Sonia O’Sullivan’s 5:25.36 from 1994.
Niyonsaba was among those barred as an intersex athletes who refuse to alter their natural hormones to meet the rules of sport.
Intersex people are born with atypical chromosomes or sex characteristics. Women like double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya have some male sex characteristics, including internal testes that produce average male levels of testosterone.
World Athletics, the sport’s governing body, says this lends an unfair advantage over middle distance and, in 2019, mandated lower testosterone to “ensure fair competition for all women”.