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Women's 1,500 Semis: Surprise! All 3 Americans Advance - Kenyans Out
American middle distance runners Anna Willard, Shannon Rowbury and Christin Wurth-Thomas matched the American men and booked three spots in the 12-woman 1,500m final to be run on the final day of the championships, Sunday, August 23.
Semi-Final #1 (2 Heats, Top 5 Advance Plus Next 2 Best Times)
Wurth-Thomas ran strongly the entire way, running to the lead with 500m left in the race, leading the pack for the next 350m before finally being passed on the outside. She held on well for an automatic spot in the final.
Ethiopian-born Maryam Jamal, the world champion of 2007, won the heat looking very good as she has late in this season. Jamal runs for Bahrain.
The most significant casualty of the first heat was Kenyan Viola Kibiwot, who only managed 8th but missed the final by 0.33 seconds.
Wurth-Thomas was excited to make the final and said (interview below), "I'm excited. That's what it's all about. It was about me coming in, relaxing and having fun. Now, it's showtime." She said she went to the front because, "I don't get in trouble and I put myself into position."
LRC Semifinal #1 Splits
Semifinal #2 - Rowbury And Willard Bring The Heat As Favorites Wilt
This spelled trouble for American Shannon Rowbury, who hasn't always had the best kick this season. For Anna Willard, her speed has been top-notch all year, so she was more safe.
But Willard, unlike Rowbury, moved all over the pack during the race. She went out near the front on the outside, got moved back to the end of the line, moved back up on the outside as far as five wide, and then was forced to wait on the inside in the final 200m. Confused? So are we.
We're even more shocked that despite all that, Willard roared up lane 1 in the closing 100m to easily get a spot in the final.
Rowbury, on the other hand, sat in the same spot the entire race. She was near the back on the rail. Unlike Willard, who rolled up the inside to the finish, Rowbury was boxed a bit but then rolled up on the outside, as the Americans were right behind co-favorite Gelete Burka of Ethiopia, who would win the heat, looking very good.
Before we take the American spots for granted, let's take a look at the women who failed to qualify out of this heat. First we'll mention Nancy Jebet Lagat, the 2008 Olympic champion at this distance. Okay, pretty good quality there. Lagat was struggling mightily to finish the race and took an incredibly hard fall as she dove across the line in seventh.
Next comes Russian Anna Alminova. She came in #2 in the world behind Jamal with a 3:58 seasonal best. Of course, her time was set in Russia in winning their championships. Oddly enough, only one Russian made the final this year and she barely snuck in after getting dropped in the first heat.
Next to miss the final is Ukranian Iryna Lishchynska, a perennial medal winner at these championships. She did not finish the race.
With the Americans performing so well and their principal rivals so blandly, it almost seemed like a shift in the balance of power was being played out.
The real balance of power won't be determined until the final and the medallists are determined. The American women are not content to merely occupy spots in the final as Anna Willard's comments showed afterwards. When asked about having to whether she was worried about having to move up in lane 1 and passing on the inside to make the final she said, "In the final, I'm not doing that because if you do that you squeak in and get third when I could have won." When asked if she thinks she can win the final she added, "Why enter a race if you don't want to win it, especially where I am right now (in my training)". Rowbury and Willard below.
LRC Semifinal #2 Splits