2012 Men's Olympic 1,500 Preview: Asbel Kiprop Tries To Join Seb Coe As A Repeat Champ
Do The Americans Have A Chance?
August 2, 2012
Editor's note: The men's 1,500 starts on Friday at 3:05 pm ET. The semis are at 3:15 pm ET on Saturday. The final is at 4:15 pm ET on Tuesday.
In the metric mile, Kenya's Asbel Kiprop will be looking to join 2012 London Olympic head Sebastian Coe as the only man to ever repeat as Olympic champ. If Kiprop, who has to be considered the favorite given the fact he won in 2008 and won Worlds last year and has the #1 time in the world this year, pulls it off, he might be able to eventually go down in history as the GOAT - greatest of all time, as he is still just 23 years young.
But Kiprop's quest for a second Olympic gold will be by no means be a cakewalk, as the men's 1,500 includes eight guys who all are in good form and basically running as well as they ever have. The entry lists shows eight guys who have run 3:31.45 or faster this year (no one else in the field has run faster than 3:33.64 this year) and seven of the eight have set PRs this year, and the one who hasn't PRed has come within 1 second of his PR.
Top 8 Entrants Based On 2012 Times
Athlete - Country - Age - Seasonal Best - PR
1. Asbel Kiprop - KEN - 23 years old - 3:28.88 3:28.88
2. Silas Kiplagat - KEN - 22 years old - 3:29.63 3:29.27
3. Nixon Chepseba - KEN - 21 years old - 3:29.77 3:29.77
4. Ayanleh Souleiman - DJI - 19 years old - 3:30.31 3:30.31
5. Nicholas Willis - NZL - 29 years old - 3:30.35 3:30.35
6. Amine Laalou - MAR - 30 years old - 3:30.54 3:29.53 *Banned For Doping
7. Taoufik Makhlouf- ALG - 24 years old - 3:30.80 3:30.80
8. Mekonnen Gebremedhin - ETH - 23 years old - 3:31.45 3:31.45
The startling thing about that list is the youth of the competitors. Eight of the 10 are 24 or younger. Asbel Kiprop, who just turned 23 on June 30th, is actually the oldest of the top four seeds.
Kiprop and Kiplagat went 1-2 last year at Worlds and are the big favorites to go 1-2 here again. Kiprop has raced five times this spring and summer and won three. The two times he lost - once in Shanghai in May and once in Kenya in June - Kiplagat was the winner. Similarly, Kiplagat has raced four times and only lost once - at Pre - the one time he lost, Kiprop was the winner.
Since Kiplagat leads the head-to-head this year and for their career (8 to 6) and won the Kenyan Trials where Kiprop was just third, one might think Kiplagat is the favorite. But Kiprop is the man to beat in our minds based on his body of work in the past and most importantly his last race in Monaco. People may have been having doubts about Kiprop after his third place showing at the Kenyan Trials, but they were erased when he became the 5th fastest man in history by running 3:28.88 in Monaco.
A Kenyan sweep is a legitimate possibility. Admittedly, given the fact that the 1,500 is often tactical, it seems likely that one of the Kenyans would do something wrong, but Chepseba is the real deal as well. A gold isn't out of the realm of possibility for him, as he's beaten Kiprop four times against nine losses in their head-to-head matchups. Against Kiplagat, he's got five victories against nine losses.
In our minds, one of the Kenyan men will win.
It seems unlikely that number four seed Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti will win. He's having a breakthrough year at 1,500 this year (previous PR 3:34.32), but he hasn't won a single race all season and that includes a loss to Bernard Lagat in New York. Souleiman certainly could medal, as could the reigning silver medallist Nick Willis of New Zealand. Willis is very good tactically and comes into the Olympics on a high, as he (like Kiprop and Kiplagat) PRed in Monaco (seeds #1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 from our chart were all in Monaco).
What About The Americans?
Andrew Wheating's PR of 3:30.90 eighth fastest in the field. Given his come-from-behind style of racing is ideal for sneaking a third place finish, he'd be a medal contender if he was in good form. But he's been injured and was only third at the US Trials and therefore we don't think he's a real medal contender. Yes, it's been more than a month since the Trials, but a huge turnaround in a month is too much to ask for unless your name is Kenenisa Bekele.
Matt Centrowitz, who shockingly won bronze last year and battled for the win at the US Trials, is America's best and probably only real legitimate medal hope. Centrowitz, himself, however, was also injured this year and had knee surgery. But he was way ahead of Wheating a month ago, so we are giving him a tiny chance.
Leo Manzano did win the Trials but Manzano went on to finish last in the London DL after the Trials. At age 27, we don't know why he'd suddenly become top three in the world, although he's had some stunningly good runs in London in the past.
LRC Prediction: Kenya 1-2-3
1) Kiprop 2) Kiplagat 3) Chepseba
QT #1: Last year, Kiplagat raced seven times prior to Daegu. This year, he's only run four. Last year as an unknown, he needed to make cash. This year, we imagine he's trying to get his peak right. A victory by him wouldn't stun us at all but we really think it would be great for track and field if Kiprop gets to go for a 3-peat in Brazil.
QT #2: One thing we didn't mention in our preview - Kiprop has been known to have some terrible tactics in the past. There is no way anyone can go from last to first and win on the last lap. We'd say if you aren't in the top half at the bell, you aren't winning.
QT #3: We didn't want to take away from their gold and silvers in 2008, but it should be pointed out that Kiprop and Willis crossed the line second and third in Beiing, as Rashid Ramzi - a cheat - crossed first.
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