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Fireworks in Round 1 of Men's 1500m at 2007 World Champs
By LetsRun.com
Aug 24, 2007
(US visitors
Watch the Worlds Live for $4.95 for the entire World Champs)

Heat 1: Webb and Kiprop Provide Some Fireworks
The casual observer may not think much of the men's 1500m heats Saturday morning in Osaka as 24 of the 41 runners would advance to the second round (and there were 5 guys in the field who have a tough time breaking 4 minutes for 1500).  However Round 1 of the 1500m was full of excitement, as American Alan Webb began his quest for the elusive American gold in the metric mile.

Webb was in the first heat with teenage Kenyan sensation Asbel Kiprop, who some are picking to beat Webb even though Kiprop's pr is 5 seconds slower than Webb's. Kiprop was the World XC junior champ (in opressive heat), the African Games 1500m champ and the surprise winner of the Kenyan trials this year at the age of 17.

Mounir Yemmouni of France led the field the first 1200m. He reached the quarter in 60.94, the 800 in 2:02.12 and 1200 in 3:00.75. American Alan Webb was near the front throughout and moved up on Yammouni's shoulder at the bell.

On the back stretch the runners battled for position and the 6 automatic qualifying spots for the semis (top 6 plus next 6 times qualified). Webb was in a good spot throughout but there were a lot of guys around him due to the modest pace. Coming into the homestretch it was clear Webb would advance but the question ws whether he would try and win the heat.

That was not to be as Asbel Kiprop moved up very fast on the outside and caught up to Webb who was in lane 1. Kiprop then turned his head and glanced over at Webb purposely trying to get Webb's attention. He then kept moving past Webb and put up his finger and waggled a "#1 sign" back and forth as he took the win. We've seen gamesmanship in the prelims and semis before, but nothing like this. The young Kiprop clearly wanted to send Webb a message that he, not Webb is the man to beat.

Although after the race, Kiprop acknowledged Webb is the favorite: "My aim was just to qualify for the next round, so things are perfect up to now. I believe Alan Webb is the favourite because he has the fastest time this year."

Kevin Sullivan of Canada who has been running in these champs since 1993 qualified for the semis and then pointed at Mohammed Shaween of Saudi Arabia who had jostled with him down the homestretch. (message board thread on this here).

The big casualty in heat 1 was Ivan Heshko of the Ukraine who failed to advance.

Heat 2: Ramzi is Ready to Run
Heat 2 reprsented the 2007 debut of defending 800 and 1500m champ Rashid Ramzi. Ramzi's coach earlier this month said Ramzi was only at 75% fitness due to injury. Ramzi has only elected to run the 1500 here. But after watching heat 2 of the 1500, don't believe for a second he is only at 75% fitness, as he looked really good.

Sergio Gallardo led through 400 (1:00.06) and 800 (2:02.44). Kiwi Nick Willis, who elected to not race in Europe and train for the Worlds in the US intead, took the lead at the bell and led through 1200 (2:59.49) as the pace was quickening. But the real running was yet to come. When it came, Mehdi Baala and Rashid Ramzi showed they are the men Alan Webb will have to beat to get the title in Osaka as they both looked great.

The blew away the field the final 200m as Baala would finish just slightly ahead (3:38.65 to 3:38.72) of Ramzi, 8/10ths of a second ahead of third place.

Nick Willis struggled a bit during the homestrech and finish in 7th (top 6 automatically advanced), but would advance to the final on time. American Leonel Manzano was the biggest disappointment in this heat as he wasted a lot of energy jostling for position early and then ran poorly on the final lap and finished last amongst the qualty competitors in the field  in 3:45.97.

Heat 3 Lagat Advances
Belal Mansoor Ali
of Algeria, Dan Komen of Kenya, and Bernard Lagat of the US, all medal contenders were in heat 3.

Komen led the field through 1200 (61.17, 2:04.75, 3:01.88) as somehow the competitors let the pace go slow even though they knew what time they needed to run to advance to the final (3:40.2). The real running began on the backstretch as there were a lot of guys in contention.

Bernard Lagat was back a bit off the lead throughout, but moved up enough coming off the turn to get in the top 6 and secure his spot in the final. Ali also got his spot in the final but did not look great. The man who looked the worst was Dan Komen who got passed right at the line to finish 7th. Fortunately he would advance to the semis on time.

When Komen was at Worlds in 2005 he did not impress either as he bombed adespite being fit (he got the win in Berlin in 3:29.72 after Worlds).

Arturo Casada of Spain won the heat. in 3:41.33.

Lagat stated afterwards what most observers could see he started his kick too late, "I made a mistake to start my kick too late. I will not repat that again. Otherwise I am feeling very good and looking forward to the semifinals"


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