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LetsRun.com's 2009 IAAF Berlin World Championships Preview
LRC Recap: Men's 1,500m 1st Round: Americans Go 4-For-4 Results, interviews and recap from LetsRun.com as Americans have a big day while most race favorites advance.
After losing the 2008 Olympic final to pending drug cheat Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain, Kenya's Asbel Kiprop will be eager to cross the line first and receive his first global championship gold medal in front of a packed stadium. Kiprop has been on fire in 2009. With wins in Hengelo, Rome, Eugene and Nairobi, Kiprop has won every major mile or 1,500m he has entered. His best time of the year is 4th on the descending order list, and his best 800m time is 2nd.
He is, undoubtedly, the world's #1 middle-distance runner of 2009. But can he wrest the 1,500m title away from his eager competitors? For starters, Kiprop will have to defeat both of his teammates, Augustine Choge and Haron Keitany, a feat he accomplished in Nairobi just weeks before Berlin. In time trials, Choge and Keitany are difficult to beat, but in championship races, Kiprop has been incredibly difficult to overcome.
Likely Olympic bronze medallist (pending the DQ of Ramzi) Mehdi Baala of France looks to be a mighty challenger. His 3:28.98 personal best is #6 all-time in the world and he is often found in the top 4 in global championships. Until recently, Baala lacked the WCs A standard, but achieved it and more with a 3:30 run that not only entered him in the race but signaled he'll be a top contender.
Unbelievably, it's taken us until the 4th paragraph to mention double 2007 world champion Bernard Lagat of the United States. Lagat has every bit of the pedigree needed to be a top contender. He runs very well in tactical affairs and his 2007 performances in Osaka were lights-out perfect. But in 2008 and 2009, he has not been the same dominant Bernard Lagat and we see him as a very slight underdog for the top medals.
Ethiopian running fans were delighted in the beginning of July, as their 1,500m runners were at the top of the world. Deresse Mekonnen was winning race after race and Gelete Burka the same on the women's side. July, however, brought more sobering results and we think Mekonnen is now a 4th-favorite at best. His 3:32 in Monaco only garnered 6th and was almost two full seconds behind Baala. Mekonnen set an Ethiopian mile record of 3:48.95 in the Oslo Dream Mile back on July 7.
The Algerians have a strong duo in Tarek Boukensa and Antar Zerguelaine, 5th and 6th in the 2007 World Championships. They recently ran 3:31 behind Baala, in front of Mekonnen in Monaco. In fact, people may sleep on some of the lesser-known teams out there, but not us. Here's a table showing what Kiprop faces just from Algeria, Morocco and Bahrain.
That's 10 guys from 4 countries with their 3:31 or better (except for Moustaoui at 3:32). Not a bad list, unless you're faced with making the 1,500m final.
Want a blast from the past? Check out the video to the left of the men's 1,500m final from Osaka in 2007. Leading at the bell are 18-year-old Asbel Kiprop and American record-holder Alan Webb. By the finishing tape they would be passed by Lagat, Ramzi and Shadrack Korir. Who knows for sure if Ramzi was on drugs in 2007, but if he was, he cost Kiprop a medal at the age of 18 before stealing his Olympic glory at 19.
Webb, famously #1 in the world coming into the race, was in second place with 120m to go but fell back in the finishing straight as his competitors swarmed towards the finish.
We think Kiprop will have ample reason to celebrate on the world stage with a big win in Berlin, while Baala, Lagat and Boukensa will sneak in ahead of Choge, Keitany, Zerguelaine and Mekonnen.
Men's 1,500m Statistics By LRC Coaching Guru John Kellogg
3:29.47 Augustine Choge (KEN) 10th (9th pending drugs DQ of Rashid Ramzi) in 2008 Olympic Games