1,500 meter finals are tough. They are a combination of roller derby, chess, and then, one has to sprint against the best distance runners in the world! This race was no exception. Bernard Lagat, the 2007 gold medalist, was in good shape. So was Augustine Choge, Asbel Kiprop, the Olympic champion, Deresse Mekonnen, the 2008 World Indoor champion, and Lopez Lomong, Leonel Manzano, among others.
Bernard Lagat, the semi finals, photo by PhotoRun.net.
Bernard Lagat went to the lead right away, but Augustine Choge of Kenya, the man with the fastest time in the world, took the lead and lead the pack of Choge, Lagat, Mekonnen, Lomong, Moustaoui, Kamel through the 400 meters in 59.54. An honest pace, but a dangerous pace for non-kickers.
Augustine Choge pulled a Steve Scott, circa 1984 LA, by continuing to lead, hitting the 800 meters in 2:00.18, with the crew of kickers, first, licking their lips and two, getting ready for the mean last lap.
The third lap heated up, but not much, as the field got even closer, Lagat inside, Lomong behind him, and Manzano on the outside. Manzano looked good. The person who I was not looking at was this tall kid in red and white of Bahrain, Yusuf Said Kamel, son of a certain Billy Konchallah ( World Champ, 1987, 1991), who was upfront. I was watching Asbel Kiprop move through the crowd.
The third lap was another sixty seconds at the 1,100 meters was hit in 2:44.02! Mekonnen charged into first and began sprinting madly, his arms pumping, his legs following. Mekonnen took the field through the 1,200 meters in 2:57.04!Yusuf Kamel was on his shoulder, as was Lagat, Choge, Lomong, and the pack. Leonel Manzano fell off the back as the pack hit the back stretch and speed really picked up, like from about sixty second pace to 52 pace! Mekonnen was leading, Kamel was following, and Lagat and Lomong were boxed!
Coming off the final 200 meters, Kamel was on the outside, charging behind Mekonnen, Choge and Kiprop were kicking, and Lagat was dying on the inside
curb. Lomong was there too!
Coming off onto the final stretch, Yusuf Said Kamel charged into the lead, Mekonnen was in second, and Choge was in third, with KIprop in fourth, as Lagat did this move,
that was amazing. He went from lane 1, inside to lane three in less than three steps and just sprinted like crazy. He went from sixth to fifth, to fourth, to third, and if he would have had more room!
Mekonnen, shown here in the semi finals, made the brave move! photo by PhotoRun.net.
Deresse Mekonnen, of Ethiopia, the 2008 World Indoor champion, showed some real bravery going for broke with a lap to go, he held onto the silver in 3:36.01. Lagat held onto the bronze, winning it in the last steps, in 3:36.21 and Yusuf Said Kamel, now of Bahrain, won the 1,500 meters in 3:35.93.
As is de rigeur, Yusuf Said Kamel expressed his happiness with his gold medal with a bit of modern dance. His comments right afterwards were, " I love the crowd, I am happy with my medal, thank you very much. " For a moment, I was wondering if the late Andy Kaufmann was going to show up.
Fourth in the final was Asbel Kiprop, in 3:36.47. Fifth was Augustine Choge, in 3:36.53, and sixth was Mohamed Moustaoui of Morocco, in 3:36.57.
In seventh, Mehdi Baala of France ran 3:36.99, and was in the medal fight, but he could not answer Lagats' final push. Lopez Lomong, the US champion, who had looked in good shape, did not get out of his box until way too late, and finished eighth in 3:37.62.
Belai Mansoor Ali of Bahrian was ninth in 3:37.72. Amine Laalou of Morocco was tenth in 3:37.83, Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco was eleventh in 3:38.35. Leonel Manzano of the US, who looked so good through 1200 meters, finished 12th in 3:40.05.
So, a last 800 meters in 1:49, with the last 400 meters in 52, and a last 200 meters that was, well, flying. First through seventh was 1.07 seconds!
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