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Women's 1500m - Dramatic Final Marred By Fall And Disqualification

By LetsRun.com
August 23, 2009
Berlin, Germany

One of the final events from Berlin ended up being perhaps the most dramatic.

First to cross the line, Spain's Natalia Rodriguez was later disqualified by IAAF officials for stepping off the track to the inside with 200m to go (that is what the rule posted on the IAAF website results referenced, but an IAAF officially told us the DQ was for pushing so we'll update you on this). Rodriguez saw a lane on the inside of race leader and co-favorite Gelete Burka of Ethiopia going in to the final turn. The Spaniard attempted to get through just as Burka attempted to reclaim the inside track. The women bumped and Rodriguez stepped on the inside.

Disappointingly, Burka fell, leaving her no chance to finish the race she had led from the early stages.

Rodriguez, as mentioned earlier, finished first, but was to find out after a drawn-out appeal process that she had been disqualified (watch a replay of the collision to the right, along with Rodriguez attempting to console Burka). Burka finished the event, but not until the entire field was done. The medals ended up going to Bahrain's Ethiopian-born 2007 world champion Maryam Jamal (gold), Great Britain's 2008 Olympic 4th-placer Lisa Dobriskey (silver) and American 2008 Olympic finalist Shannon Rowbury (bronze).

Each of the women certainly were deserving medal recipients, but with 200m to go it would have been difficult to imagine Rodriguez and Burka finishing outside of the medals. Let's say Burka remained with Rodriguez and Jamal ran the same way she did. Those three would likely have been the medalists though Dobriskey was charging very hard and almost beat Jamal. The final margin separating gold from silver (Jamal from Dobriskey) was 0.01 seconds.

Jamal, who with 200m to go was passing Burka on the outside just as Rodriguez was pushing through on the inside, felt she would have won gold either way. "I'm certain if that had not happened she (Burka) would have taken top-3. The Spanish girl was definitely in the wrong for passing in that way," said the double champ, "however, this does not really take away from my victory at all because I am confident if that girl had not come through and disturbed the race at that point I would have won anyway. When she came through she threw us all off."

If one watches a replay of the race, Rodriguez recovers from the collision with Burka and absolutely pulled away from Jamal over the final 100m. The Spaniard was affected more, physically, from the collision than was Jamal, so Jamal's claims are up for debate. Jamal, as we said earlier, was not kicking that well as Dobriskey almost passed her and Rodriguez pulled well clear.

Medal for Rowbury and 3 Americans in the Top 6
America's Rowbury became the first woman from the USA to medal at a world championships since 1999 (Regina Jacobs was given silver in 4:00.35 in Sevilla '99), but she said immediately after the race no matter the outcome of the appeal in her mind she still was fourth. "I'm fourth. In my mind I got fourth. It keeps me hungry. I'm so mad I didn't quite get third but that's how it unfolds. When it's a slow and tactical race it's whoever gets the best positioning that last 150, 100 and unfortunately I fell a little bit short."

On the medal podium Rowbury was clearly happy and honored to be there, despite the tumult that ensued after the controversial final. After two finals - men's 800 and women's 1500 - that were extremely physical, Rowbury compared racing in America to racing in these world championship events. She said, "American racing is a lot more of a gentlemanly sport." Rowbury was, of course, knocked down in the first round and given a pass to the semi-final where she qualified by a wide margin for the final. She had a lot of interviews talking about falling, DQ's and officials' rulings in the past few days.

Great Britain's Lisa Dobriskey ran a fantastic final 200m to grab 3rd and eventually move up to silver. After the race she said, "I just knew I needed to be in position. In Beijing I just slightly missed the break... I pulled it off to the best I could."

The American non medallists Wurth-Thomas and Willard were pleased to have made the final but left wondering what if. Wurth-Thomas told us "I made some mistakes. I feel like I closed well which is something I haven't done this year. That was positive but I wasn't in position to close (when the racing started) and that's a major mistake."

Willard who after her semifinal talked about putting herself in position to win the race said, "I didn't feel as comfortable at that early pace as I thought I would. I was in pretty good contention (at the bell) and if I closed it out the way I should I'd be in medal contention. However my last 250 I didn't feel so hot. I was trying to find that last gear and it wasn't there... I'm happy I put myself in contention but I don't know why my last gear wasn't there today."

Rodriguez, Teary-Eyed. Says Burka Pushed Her And She Regrets The Incident
While most runners seemed to blame Rodriguez for the accident - our initial reaction as well - the Spaniard was not disqualified for pushing, but for stepping off the track to the inside (we are still trying to reconfirm this as this was posted but an IAAF spokesperson told us otherwise)

Willard was in a good position to see the fall and when asked about it she said, "If they replay the video and she (Rodriguez) was bumped back and that is why she stepped in the grass I'm sure she'll be fine." Clearly the officials thought otherwise.

Natalia Rodriguez Spoke With Flotrack After The Race

When interviewed after the race, Rodriguez was nearly in tears and described the incident saying she saw a lane to pass, went for it, and Burka pushed her. In the replay we think it was pretty clear Rodriguez ran into a spot that was not big enough, hooked arms with Burka a couple times, stepped off the track and caused the petite Ethiopian to fall. Jamal on the outside seemed to help pinch Burka and Rodriguez even closer together, causing an unfortunate series of events.

Thanks, in part, to the fall of Burka and disqualification of Rodriguez, Americans took spots 3, 5 and 6 in the race. Christin Wurth-Thomas ended up fifth after running much of the early portions of the race near the front. Anna Willard ended up sixth. With 200m to go the top-5 had really separated themselves. Burka, Jamal, Dobriskey, Rodriguez and Rowbury had a jump on the rest of the field. So it's hard to say that the Americans were affected negatively by the fall in front of them. Nevertheless, three Americans in the top-6 of a world championship 1500m final is a remarkable outcome, if not a completely meaningful one.

The collisions near the end of the race were hardly the only physical fireworks in the 4-minute event. In the first two laps there were elbows being thrown all over the place. The most visible pugilist was Russian Natalya Evdokimova, who at one point blatantly cleared out Jamal with a shove, allowing her to run next to Burka in the lead. Evdokimova was the largest competitor in the race, about a foot taller than Burka. The race was rough from the get-go. Had Evdokimova pulled the same tactics with 100m to go she may have been disqualified, too.

1 184 Maryam Yusuf Jamal BRN 4:03.74
2 385 Lisa Dobriskey GBR 4:03.75
3 1023 Shannon Rowbury USA 4:04.18
4 305 Nuria Fernández ESP 4:04.91
5 1041 Christin Wurth-Thomas USA 4:05.21
6 1038 Anna Willard USA 4:06.19
7 706 Lidia Chojecka POL 4:07.17
8 788 Natalya Evdokimova RUS 4:07.71
9 331 Kalkidan Gezahegne ETH 4:08.81
10 326 Gelete Burka ETH 4:11.21
312 Natalia Rodríguez ESP DQ
630 Mariem Alaoui Selsouli MAR DNS


400m   Gelete Burka ETH 1:06.66
800m   Gelete Burka ETH 2:15.13
1200m   Gelete Burka ETH 3:17.37




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