Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan

Florence (Italy) (AFP) - Sifan Hassan and Joshua Cheptegei have established themselves as elite athletes capable of setting world records, but both were quick Wednesday to dismiss criticism of new running shoes that some say are the equivalent of mechanical doping.

Both Cheptegei and Hassan wear Nike ZoomX Dragonfly track spikes, a super-light shoe with a rigid plate and a unique foam that lends a propulsive sensation to every stride.

Critics claim the shoes are the equivalent of mechanical doping, while supporters hail them as a revolutionary technical advance. With athletes also aided by trackside pace-setting lighting, a slew of middle-distance records has fallen and many more look set to follow.

Versatile Dutch runner Hassan has three world records to her name, having seen Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey set a new world best in the 10,000m in Hengelo on Tuesday just two days after she herself had knocked off more than 10 seconds off the record.

Ugandan middle distance maestro Cheptegei set new bests in the men’s 5,000m in Monaco, 10,000m in Valencia and 5km road, also in Monaco, last season.

“I don’t know why they get crazy about technology,” Hassan said ahead of Thursday’s Diamond League meet in the Italian city of Florence where she will step down from an endurance to a speed outing, running the 1500m in which she is also world champion.

“All of us have new phones, before no one had telephones, so we have to go back to radio to listen?”

Hassan, who moved to the Netherlands from Ethiopia at the age of 15 in 2008, added: “We don’t have to have the track, so we have to take it up and run on dust or something!

“What’s wrong with you people, just move on. We’re a new generation, chill out, don’t just complain, just be positive, everybody, have fun.”

- Technology changing world -

Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda

Cheptegei said innovative track spikes were “available not just for me or Sifan” but for everyday runners wishing to improve.

“I believe technology is changing the world,” said the Ugandan, who won 10,000m world gold in Doha in 2019.

“We’re not living in the 1990s, we have to accept the new innovations from the new companies, the technologies, we have to go and live, it’s about the comfort that allows you to reach your dreams.”

Cheptegei singled out in-form Norwegian prodigy Jakob Ingebrigtsen as the “man of the moment” ahead of the third Diamond League of the season, just six weeks out from the Tokyo Olympics.

“He has shown a lot of achievement, tremendous changes leading up to the world championships in Doha,” he said.

“Even when still young, he was still improving. Look what he did in 2020 during the pandemic. It proves he’s the man of the moment who is capable of delivering something special on the big stage.

“I’m sure he can do sub-13, it’s not about when, but even tomorrow it’s possible.”

Cheptegei said the meet record of 12:46 would come under serious pressure, notably with the presence of a trio of Ethiopians in Selemon Barega and Hagos Gebrhiwet, who are ranked fifth and sixth respectively in the all-time list with 12:43.02 and 12:45.82, and Muktar Edris, the reigning world 5,000m champion.

“I believe that with a good organisation of the pacers, with also a good field, and pretty much we have a very strong field, the Ethiopians, the Canadians, Jakob, so I believe the meeting record will be in danger tomorrow,” he said.