Wilson Kipketer lost his outdoor 800m world record almost a decade ago but indoors the great Dane’s phenomenal time of 1:42.67 over four laps of the Paris’ Palais Omnisports track at the 1997 World Athletics Indoor Championships remains unsurpassed.
His run to an 800m gold medal and a $50,000 world record bonus on the venue’s Mondo track almost 23 years ago – in the same stadium which will see the first of this winter’s 14 European Athletics Indoor Permit Meetings on 2 February – remains in many people’s eyes one of the great indoor performances ever seen.
To quote from the event report in Athletics International, “The sixth edition of (what was then) the IAAF World Indoor Championships will forever be linked with the name of Wilson Kipketer… Stringing together four seemingly effortless laps of 24.22, 26.00, 26.27 and 26.18 he finished in a glorious 1:42.67. This is how a world record attempt should be executed: just the runner against the clock without the intrusion of pacemakers.”
The time was more than a one second improvement on his own world record of 1:43.96 run in his Paris heat two days before, itself a jaw dropping feat because it was the first time any body had run under 1:44.00 indoors and also the first time that a middle-distance world record had ever been set in the heat of a major championship.
Since his solo run for glory in the French capital, only one other man has gone under 1:44.00 indoors and Kipketer remains more than a second faster than anyone else on the world all-time list. Few people expect Kipketer’s mark to fall this winter either.
The well-known British broadcaster Tim Hutchings, commentating for the pan-European channel Eurosport on the championships, compared Kipketer’s performance to the impact that Bob Beamon had with his famous long jump at the 1968 Olympics and predicted on air, “Nobody will get close to the time that Wilson Kipketer has run this weekend.” So the subsequent decades have proved.
Kipketer himself credits his 1997 feats – which also included two 800m world records in the summer of 1:41.24 and 1:41.11 with the latter, set in the German city of Cologne, still the European record – as being a result of events the previous summer when he was denied the chance to run in the 1996 Olympics despite the Kenyan-born runner having been resident in Denmark since 1990.
"Not going to the Atlanta Olympics provided my motivation for the successful events of 1997. I had to prove I was still the best even though I was not Olympic champion,” he commented at the time of his retirement in 2005.
The track in Paris was a Mondo track, one of 14 World Athletics Indoor Championships the European Athletics Green Inspiration Partner has provided the surface for with number 15 coming up in March when the Chinese city of Nanjing stages the next edition of the championship.
The company upgraded the Palais Omnisport track in 2010, installing a Mondotrack surface which is what competitors at the Meeting de Paris Indoor on Sunday 2 February will go through their paces on.
Star names for the meeting are set to be announced but tickets are already on sale for one of seven European Athletics Indoor Permit Premium Meetings – three of which take place in France during a packed 12-day period with the Meeting Metz Moselle Athlelor on 9 February and the Meeting de l’Eure in Val de Reuil on 14 February – but tickets are already on sale and can be bought here (website in French).