George Manangoi Wins Thrilling Men’s 1500 at 2018 World U20 Championships as World Indoor Champ Samuel Tefera Fails to Medal (5th)

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By LetsRun.com
July 12, 2018

This one lived up to the hype.

On paper, the men’s 1500 at the 2018 World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, figured to be one of the best events of the meet, and today’s final did not disappoint. When all was said and done, the World U18 champion George Manangoi of Kenya had added the World U20 title to his growing list of accolades, the world’s youngest sub-4:00 miler, Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, had earned silver to become the first non-African-born medalist in this event in 16 years, and the World Indoor champion, Samuel Tefera of Ethiopia, had walked away empty-handed. That’s right. Tefera, who won World Indoor gold – at the professional level – just four months ago and sits #2 on the 2018 world list at 3:31.63, could only manage 5th place at the World U20 Championships as he was blown away over the final 100 meters after holding the lead on the final turn.

Manangoi celebrates gold

Manangoi celebrates gold

Even with Tefera out of the picture, the final straightaway was filled with drama as Manangoi, Ingebrigtsen, and 3:32 man Justus Soget of Kenya were all shoulder-to-shoulder with just 25 meters to go. But in the end it was Manangoi — whose older brother Elijah is the reigning senior world champion — who found a gear the others could not match, sprinting to victory in 3:41.71 thanks to a stellar 52.87 final lap.

The Race

The first lap was not fast, as Soget and Brit Jake Heyward passed 400 next to each other in 63.11 with a tight pack behind them. Things picked up with 800 to go, when Tefera moved to the front and passed 800 in 2:05.9. As they entered the home stretch for the penultimate time, Soget began applying pressure, but now that Tefera had the lead, he did not want to part with it and worked hard to hold Soget off. At the bell, Tefera began to surge, passing 1200 in 3:01.51, and the pack was stringing out as Serbia’s Elzan Bibic followed him in second. But Tefera, who had split 55.6 from 800 to 1200, was working hard and still had 300 meters to run. Could he hold on?

It was a great battle for gold over the final 100

It was a great battle for gold over the final 100

On the back straight, the kickers began to come for Tefera as Soget, Ingebrigtsen and Manangoi all chased him down; those four had broken away from the field on the final turn. Tefera, spent from trying to protect the lead at all costs, had nothing left when they went around him coming off the final turn, and it was a three-man race for gold. Soget and Ingebrigtsen, who had been in better position than Manangoi coming off the turn, had the inside track, but Manangoi, now free from the box and with room to run, really began to turn it over midway down the home straight, eventually drawing level with 25 meters to go before powering past to win in 3:41.71. Ingebrigtsen fought off Soget for silver as Tefera faded; his 55.81 final lap was almost three full seconds slower than Manangoi’s, and Heyward wound up running him down for fourth in the home straight.

Results and quick take analysis appear below, but first watch the thrilling final 100 for yourself.

Results

POSBIBATHLETECOUNTRYMARK
1458George Meitamei MANANGOIKENKEN3:41.71
2503Jakob INGEBRIGTSENNORNOR3:41.89
3462Justus SOGETKENKEN3:42.14
4305Jake HEYWARDGBRGBR3:43.76
5265Samuel TEFERAETHETH3:43.91
6563Elzan BIBICSRBSRB3:44.65 PB
7102Oussama CHERRADALGALG3:45.17
8504Sondre JUVENNORNOR3:45.40
9264Birhanu SORSAETHETH3:45.47
10658Cooper TEAREUSAUSA3:46.18
11128Callum DAVIESAUSAUS3:46.35
12498Robin VAN RIELNEDNED3:48.65

Splits
300m 46.64 Justus SOGET KEN
700m 1:51.61 Samuel TEFERA ETH
1100m 2:48.10 SamuelTEFERA ETH

Quick Take: This was a fantastic race

With such an accomplished field — again, the World Indoor champ was only 5th — this race deserved a thrilling final, and it doesn’t get more thrilling than guys running three-wide for the gold 25 meters from the finish. Props to all the athletes for a terrific race.

Quick Take: Big kicks must run in the Manangoi family

Most athletics fans’ introduction to Elijah Manangoi came in 2015, when he used a monster kick to go from 5th to 2nd over the final 35 meters and earn 1500m silver at the World Championships in Beijing.

Watching George Manangoi today, it was hard not to think of his older brother’s run in Beijing as the same late burst of speed was on display. George Manangoi was actually boxed in on the final turn, but rather than panic, he stayed patient and unleashed his kick to devastating effect over the final 100 meters. A 52.87 final lap is terrific running, especially when you consider the change of gears Manangoi deployed over the final 100.

Manangoi, the champion

Manangoi, the champion

George Manangoi, still only 17 (officially, he’s two months younger than Jakob Ingebrigtsen) was hardly anonymous before today as he won the World U18 title on home soil in Nairobi last year. But today was easily the biggest win of his career, and it came against an absolutely loaded field. The one thing keeping Manangoi from being discussed among the very best 1500 runners in the world (including seniors) is his pb: 3:35.53. Today showed that he has the kick to contend with pretty much anyone in a championship race, but does he have the ability to hang in a 3:31 or 3:32 race on the Diamond League circuit? Remember, he was only 14th in his last DL race in Rome on May 31, running 3:41 (his Rongai Athletics Club teammate Timothy Cheruiyot finished first, 10 seconds ahead of him).

Our guess is that it won’t be long until George Manangoi is running near the front of DL races. He has a similar skill set to his older brother Elijah, and Elijah started running well on the DL circuit after his silver in Beijing and has been among the best in the world ever since. It could take George a year or two to develop the strength to start winning fast DL races (no one has been able to come close to Cheruiyot this year), but his kick is championship-ready right now.

Quick Take: A fine run from Jakob Ingebrigtsen

Silver for Ingebrigtsen

Silver for Ingebrigtsen

Unfortunately for the Ingebrigtsen family, the Manangoi family still has bragging rights as Elijah beat Filip at senior worlds last year and George beat Jakob at World U20s today.

But that’s about the only thing Jakob has to be disappointed with as he continues to prove himself an excellent all-around runner. Whether it’s following a hot pace at the Prefontaine Classic and holding on to run a 3:52 mile, taking on leading duties against a pair of national champions in Robby Andrews and Chris O’Hare in Oslo, running at Worlds as a 16-year-old last year (in the steeplechase, no less!), Ingebrigtsen has shown a tremendous skill set while never looking overwhelmed, even against the world’s best runners. Today, he showed good racing chops and a terrific close (his 53.28 last lap would often be good enough to win this race) against a very talented field. While a lot of the talk about Ingebrigtsen centers around how good he could one day become, he should be appreciated for how good he already is.

Quick Take: It can be really hard to run as the favorite

While this field was stacked, Tefera was the favorite on paper due to his pb and his title as world indoor champion. As a result, he may have felt a duty to control the race, and that may have led to his downfall. Tefera took the lead with 800 to go, but leading in a championship 1500 final requires you to make tough choices. One of the biggest: how much energy to expend protecting the lead? Soget put Tefera to the sword just before the bell, and Tefera didn’t just surge to protect the lead but upped the ante even further and made a big move of his own on the first turn of the final lap. While there’s no guarantee Tefera would have won had he sat back and let someone else take on the lead (though that is how he won World Indoors in 3:58 in a super-tactical race), it was clear that the hard move he made between 450 and 300 go to took a lot out of him and he was spent when the real kicking began on the final turn.

Tefera’s race also shows just how impressive Matthew Centrowitz‘s win in the 2016 Olympic final was. Going wire-to-wire carries a lot of pressure and requires the leader to finely gauge his pace, especially on the last lap. The fact that Centrowitz could do it on the sport’s biggest stage is why his victory is one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of American distance running.

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