Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Men's 1,500: Yusuf Saad Kamel Pulls Off Big Upset As Kiprop & Lagat Suffer Tactically
Up until this point, for much of the 2009 IAAF World Track and Field Championships, the big favorites had been coming through - Usain Bolt in the 100, Sanya Richards in the 400, Kenenisa Bekele in the 10,000, to just name a few. But that changed in a big way in the men's 1,500 as the best man and best 1,500 runner on the planet in Kenya's Asbel Kiprop did not win, nor even medal.
Poor tactics cost Kiprop big time and the beneficiary was none other that Bahrain's Yusuf Saad Kamel. Poor tactics aside, Kamel would have been tough to beat as captured the title in 3:35.93 thanks to a blistering final 400 of 51.6. Ethiopia's Dream Mile winner, Deresse Mekonnen, ended up second in 3:36.01 as 2007 world champion, American Bernard Lagat, who found himself boxed coming off the final turn, was 3rd in 3:36.20.
American Lopez Lomong finished 8th in 3:37.62 and Leo Manzano was last in 3:40.05.
After 3 laps, both Lagat and Kamel were well positioned as Kamel was in 4th on the rail with Lagat in 5th on his shoulder. Kiprop was still in the back (he was in dead last with 400 to go), having only passed Leo Manzano, who had started to fade. With 300 remaining, basically everyone but Manzano was still in contention. At this point, the runners behind Lagat started to make their bids for glory and move up and a number of runners came by Lagat on the backstretch, which resulted in Lagat being poorly positioned with 200 meters to go.
With 200 remaining, the mad dash for glory was about to begin and Lagat found himself in 8th totally boxed in on the rail. Kamel wasn't that far in front of him, as he was just ahead in 6th, but Kamel had a lot fewer bodies to contend with, as Lagat had three guys on his outside as Amine Laalou, Mehdi Baala and Kiprop had gotten desperate and were trying to pass the field on the outside.
The Finishing Sprint
On the turn, Lagat had followed Kamel as he moved up in lane 1, but just before he entered the home stretch, Lagat was bumped by Baala and lost a little bit of momentum. On the finishing straight, Lagat jumped outside was able to get going again and moved up from fifth from third.
Afterwards, Lagat said he felt like he had more in him than bronze.
"I don't know if I'm satisfied. Given that I didn't win anything last year because I was injured, I'm pleased," Lagat told Versus commentator Bob Neumeier immediately after the race. "The thing is I felt really great today - only to get boxed. Of all the things I didn't want to happen today and it happened at the wrong time - just before we hit the home straight.
"There is going to be revenge (in the 5,000). I don't usually use those words. The 5,000 is on. If it goes sub-13, I'm in there baby. I'm going to go hard."
Had Lagat not been boxed, it certainly would have been interesting to see if he could have caught Kamel. Lagat and Kamel basically ran the final 80 meters at nearly an identical pace, with Lagat having to spend some energy to get going after losing a bit of momentum.
After a few more minutes to reflect, Lagat was pleased with his bronze but still reflecting on the box. As he says in the video on the right, "I felt really strong, really good, all the way, even at the bell, I was like 'my goodness I'm feeling so good'. I was doing everything possible not to get blocked but then these guys came flying and I was blocked ... By the time to get out, it was too late, the other guys had about five meters ... It was the hardest box ever. It was too close to the finish."
Poor Tactics Kill Kiprop
Quite simply, the precocious Kiprop ran way too confidently today and paid for it big time. In the semis, he was able to run out into the outside of lane 2 and pass the entire field on the last lap, but that simply isn't possible in the final when the leader is running a 51.6 final 400.
Looking at television replays, it's clear that Kiprop ran the entire final 300 meters on the outside of lane two or the inside of lane three. That may not sound like much, but he ran way more than 1,500 meters for the race. If we conservatively estimate that he ran the final turn a full 1.5 lanes outside of Kamel, that roughly means Kiprop ran 6 meters more than Kamel over the final 200. We've estimated Kiprop's final 200 to have been in 25.9.
Well, at 25.9-second speed for 206 meters, 6 meters takes roughly .75 of a second. Kiprop only lost by .54. Additionally, Kiprop started the final lap roughly .6 or .7 behind Kamel. So even though he ran a ton more than 400 meters on the last lap, we're estimating that Kiprop ran a 51.3 or 51.4 final 400. Had Kiprop been near the front and near the rail, he almost certainly closed the final 400 in 50.6 or 50.7. But in the end, the results show Kiprop actually finished 4th, having moved up furiously from 9th to 4th in the final 100 meters.
Had it not been for tactics, Kiprop was roughly one full second better than Kamel over the final 400. But tactics are a big part of the 1,500 and the Kenyan-born Kamel is the 2009 champion for Bahrain - a country whose citizenship he tried to renounce earlier in the year.
Kamel On Bahrain Vs Kenya
Kamel, born Gregory Konchellah, is the son of two time world 800m champion Billy Konchellah of Kenya. Until this year, Kamel was primarily an 800m runner, but he ran 2 personal bests for 1,500 last year.
This year, he opened his season in February with his only 1,500m victory prior to Wednesday night, a 3:36.72 victory in Sydney (the race where Ryan Gregson ran 3:37.24 for third). Kamel said he did no speed work before that race and after that his coach Tareq Sabt (husband of Maryam Jamal, Bahrain's 1,500m female hope), was really encouraged about Kamel's chances at 1,500.
Kamel said in Part II of the press conference (video on right), "My coach told me I could run a very good 1,500 meters. Last year I ran 2 PBs in the 1,500. Earlier this year I ran 3:36 without any training. I didn't (wear) any spikes. Only jogging. He was very happy."
Kamel was quick to give his coach Sabt a lot of the credit. He said, "I have a big thanks to my coach. This medal belongs to him and my country."
Kamel, despite only having one 1,500m victory to his name this year, said he was not surprised to have come out on top. He said, "I was very confident when I woke up this morning. I was feeling I was already a winner. When I did my warmup, I was like 'Oh my god I'm going to win a race'. I didn't fear anyone ... I have really trained hard the last 30 days ..."
The other thing Kamel has is great genes. When asked about his dad, who is living in Finland and could not make it to the race, he said, "My intention was to beat my dad's personal best (1:43.06). And I did it. To beat my uncle's PB (Patrick Konchellah 1:42.98). I did it. Now I'm ahead of the family (Kamel's best is 1:42.79)."
Maybe by one measuring stick, he is ahead of the family. But the last time we looked, his dad has 2 World Championships golds around his neck (1987 and 1991) and a World Championships bronze. Kamel still has a way to go in our book, especially with Asbel Kiprop on the scene.
The other 2 Americans in the final, Lopez Lomong and Leo Manzano, finished 8th and 12th respectively. Lomong revealed that he found out his grandmother had passed away this morning. Both runners were pleased with the experience of making the final. Lomong said he got caught in a little box and added, "I'm not going to beat myself up just because I lost today. I'm going to use this for my confidence and get ready to go." More below. Leo said, "These guys are the best in the world. I was glad to be in the mix. It was a great race for everybody. You work very hard. You can't make any mistakes when you are competing at this level ... Once in the finals, I was going to give it a good go. I tried to give a good go. I gave it my best. The first couple of laps, I tried to get in there."