Ayanleh Souleiman fulfills his promise and wins men’s 1500 gold – Nick Willis 4th but then DQd

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by LetsRun.com
March 8, 2014

Sopot, Poland - Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman fulfilled the promise he’s shown in recent years and officially arrived as track and field’s newest mid-d star with a brilliant gold medal run of 3:37.52 in the men’s 1500 final at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships. Despite many experts viewing this race as a wide-open affair, Souleiman ran as a heavy favorite would – controlling it from the front, leading almost uninterrupted from the start to the finish.

Souleiman claimed gold in 3:37.52 as Ethiopian Aman Wote, who ran right behind Souleiman for much of the race and briefly took the lead as he made a bid for golden glory with just over 300 meters remaining, ended up a deserving second claiming his first global medal in 3:38.02. Defending champion Morocan Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco took his third straight World Indoor medal (he also won silver in 2010) in 3:38.21 – ahead of Kiwi Nick Willis who was fourth on the track in 3:28.47.

Willis was eventually DQd for stepping inside of the rail on the last turn.

American Will Leer, who ran much of the race in last place, closed decently to initially finish in 7th in 3:39.60 (now moved up to sixth).

Results and LetsRun.com Analysis below.

Men’s 1500 Results
1 Ayanleh SOULEIMAN DJI 3:37.52
2 Aman WOTE ETH 3:38.08
3 Abdalaati IGUIDER MAR 3:38.21
4 Ilham Tanui ÖZBILEN TUR 3:39.10
5 Jakub HOLUŠA CZE 3:39.23
6 Will LEER USA 3:39.60
7 Homiyu TESFAYE 3:39.90
8 Bethwell BIRGEN KEN 3:40.66
Nicholas WILLIS NEW ZEALAND NZL DQ R163.3(b)splits
200m Ayanleh SOULEIMAN 28.45
400m Bethwell BIRGEN 59.21
600m Ayanleh SOULEIMAN 1:28.41
800m Ayanleh SOULEIMAN 1:58.96
1000m Ayanleh SOULEIMAN 2:29.53
1200m Aman WOTE 2:58.23
1400m Ayanleh SOULEIMAN 3:24.49

Quick Take #1: Souleiman is officially a mid-star.

At age 19, Souleiman arrived on the circuit from out of nowhere as the potential “next big mid-star” when he ran 3:30.31 for 1500 and 3:50.21 for the mile. Last year, at 20, he ran 1:43.63 and 2:15.77 for 1k and won bronze in the 800 at Worlds.

Tonight, he fulfilled all of that promise by essentially going wire to wire for victory. Everytime Aman Wote or Bethwell Birgen tried to pass, Souleiman would increase the pace and keep the lead. It was a clinic on front running.

Your New Mid D Star

Your New Mid D Star

Not bad for a guy who told us post-race, he only started running in 2008 after watching the Olympics on television.

If anyone in the world is able to beat Asbel Kiprop at 1500 when he’s 100% on his game, it’s Souleiman. His final 400 was 53 low.

If Souleiman ends up being the face of mid-d running the next few years, the sport will be in good hands. He’s got a bit of natural charisma that he displayed by doing a little victory dance on the track after winning and he has decent at English.

Since we’re not sure if his dance made the TV feed or not, we asked him to recreate it for us in the mixed zone. He obliged:

Quick Take #2 Makhloufi Out of Jama Aden’s Group: We talked one-on-one with Souleiman after the race. He revealed to us several things of note. For starters, he said that 2012 Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi is no longer part of his training group in Ethiopia that Jama Aden coaches. Genzebe Dibaba and Abubaker Kaki are the other big names in the group.

As for outdoors, Souleiman said he may try the 5000 and said he is looking forward to 2016, when he’s going to run some combination of 1500/5000 not 800/1500. He talked about eventually being like Mo Farah and doing the 10,000 and marathon.

The Finish

The Finish

Quick Take #3: After the race, Nick Willis was a little down on himself for not being more aggressive as he said he lost bronze because the other guys had “more balls” than him.

“Those guys just had more balls than me today – to go after it. The (top two) were obviously the better runners but (comparing) the guy that finished third and me and the guy that finished fifth, the only difference was they went at it and I didn’t,” said Willis.

Earlier he said, “Right now, I’m just really disappointed. I somewhat executed the plan I wanted- hang back the first bit and then move into position. With 600 to go, get on the shoulder of the leader in third, but I think I made too much of an effort (to get) there. When they went with 300 to go, I wasn’t aggressive enough. I knew I had to give it everything I had with 250 to go. I haven’t been tying up in training. I’ve been dead but I’ve been able to muscle the last 100. But I didn’t do it and third place got away from me. I was catching him at the end but there wasn’t enough real estate. I’m just really disappointed in myself.”

Personally, we thought Willis ran a near perfect tactical race. He started the race in last, but by 400 was in sixth. With 600 remaining, Willis was in third and had done very little work to get there. The other guys went for it earlier than he did though as he was fifth at the bell and only able to pick off one guy before the finish.

Willis came through the mixed zone before the DQ was announced but commented on it via twitter after the fact:

Dq’d for taking step inside rail on final turn. Our belief is Turkish runner cut down on me to prevent the pass and bumped me.

Please pray for a calm heart as I await news on our dq appeal. Tempting to get angry but I know God is bigger than results

Appeal denied. Painful but serves me right for trying to pass on inside.

Either way, very dissapointed not to finish in top 3. Surprised how much it hurts actually. Still very blessed #tgbtg

Quick Take #4 Will Leer Not a Factor, Talks of Possible Boycott of USATFs: American Will Leer, who like Willis is coached by Ron Warhurst, also felt he should have been more aggressive as there was little chance he’d come from last to the medal podium late in this one. He said he just felt a little off his game despite doing everything he possibly could to recover from last night’s 3:38 semifinal. He said he’s never had to run the day after running a 3:38. Leer took an ice bath last night to try to help his recovery, but still found it hard. He said the first 400 felt way faster than 58 (in reality it was 59).

“I just heard my training partner Nick Willis say, ‘Those guys committed and I didn’t.’ I had a mental lapse in there and was kind of ok with running in the back,” said Leer.

In the grand scheme of things, Leer recognized he’s had a good indoor season as he won the NYRR Wanamaker mile in a pb of 3:52.87 – which was the fastest mile in the world indoors this year.

“At the end of the day, I can’t be too upset as it’s my first Worlds final but I was hoping for more.”

Outdoors, Leer said he may try the 5000 at USAs, but also said that many US distance runners are contemplating a boycott of USAs to pressure USATF to get its act together.

“There’s an overwhelming sense of disappointment (about USATF) among USA distance athletes right now,” said Leer. “We’re just not sure what is going on. We just want transparency and if we can’t have that then we won’t support the organization,” said Leer.

The definition of class

The definition of class

Quick Take #5: Willis is a class act. At age 30, he’s not likely going to a have a ton more chances to win a global medal. To finish initially fourth was heart-breaking for him, as he acknowledged. But what did he do after the race? He went out of his way to congratulate the the gold and silver winners. It would have been easy not to congratulate them, as they had moved far away to praise Allah, as shown by the photo on the right.

He also came by his training partner Will Leer as we were interviewing him and patted him on the back and said, “It’s good to be here with you buddy.”

Quick Take #6: Time to pat ourselves on the back. We called this race before we even got to Poland as we wrote the following in our preview:

“When confused by the stats, we say go with quality as the cream normally rises to the top. The four men in the field with outdoor championship medals – Iguider, Souleiman, Willis and Kiplagat – also have some of the better personal bests in the field. Of those four, Souleiman is the only one who really is still considered a rising star. So we’ll pick him to arrive for the first time and claim gold.

Quick Take #7: The Kenyan press is being tough on Bethwell Birgen who was last: Birgen scoops wooden spoon in Sopot

More: Nick Willis disqualified at world champs

Souleiman had time to look over his shoulder

Souleiman had time to look over his shoulder