Report: World Athletics Championships 2023 in numbers

  • 2,187 athletes taking part in the championships: 1,106 men and 1,014 women
  • SA’s Wayde van Niekerk is ranked #1 for the 400m, Akani Simbine is #2 in the 100m
  • Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon has broken three world records in three months so is in excellent form

This is a summary of our 10-page report on the World Athletics Championships. You can download the full report for free here.

The 19th World Athletics Championships start tomorrow (19 August 2023) in Budapest, Hungary. While there are more than 2,000 athletes taking part in the nine-day event, most eyes will be on a handful of them. One in particular will be South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk who is hoping to make a remarkable comeback after the freak 2017 injury that put his career on hold.

It’s been a slow return to form for Van Niekerk and while he is still a second off his world record time for the 400m he is unbeaten in 2023.

Last year he finished in a more than respectable fifth place in the World Champs in Oregon, but this year he has his sights set on the gold.

Kenyan hopefuls

The US team dominates the entry list for this year’s championships (not unusual) but there are many countries to watch out for, particularly a handful from African countries, in particular Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala and Faith Kipyegon.

Kipyegon has been on a remarkable streak of late, setting world records in the 1,500m, the mile and 5,000m, all since June. Short of falling during the race it looks likely that Kipyegon will take the gold comfortably.

Omanyala has his sights set on being the first African to take the 100m men’s title. It has been more than 20 years that someone outside of the US or Jamaica has won the 100m gold. In last year’s championships in Oregon Omanyala was delayed by visa problems and only just made it to the track on time for the heats. 

Also in the 100m lineup is South Africa’s Akani Simbine. He is ranked 2nd in the world and has run the 11th fastest time this year.

An event born out of frustration

The World Athletics Championships were first officially held in 1986 but their history goes back to 1976.

The championships were started as a response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop the men’s 50km race walk event. In 1976 the first championships were held in Malmö, Sweden with just a single event: the 50km walk.

They were held again in 1980 in the Netherlands with just two events for women: the 400m hurdles and the 3,000 metres.

The first official World Championships were held in Helsinki, Finland in 1983 with 41 events and the then-East Germany topping the medals table.

The championships are held every second year although the 2021 event in the United States was moved to 2022 because of the Covid pandemic.

Download the full report

Age matters

Unsurprisingly most of the athletes at the championships are in their 20s, though the longer track events have a higher proportion of older athletes. Like Portugal’s João Vieira who at 47 is well over the average age. On the younger side, there are around 128 athletes who are 20 years old or younger.