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LRC Men's 1,500m and Women's 800m Semifinal Recap

By LetsRun.com
August 17, 2009

(Note: Many more interviews can be found here)

Men's 1,500m Semifinal - Favorites Advance While Americans Turn Heads

Everybody expected Bernard Lagat to advance to the final in the 2009 World Championships 1,500m. But how about his American teammates Lopez Lomong and Leonel Manzano?

The American trio that did so poorly in Beijing looked absolutely superb for the second round in a row in Berlin, as Lomong nearly won his heat with another tremendous closing sprint and Manzano almost upended world #1 Asbel Kiprop for a win in the second semifinal.

Semifinal 1
South African Peter van der Westhuizen assumed pacemaking duties ahead of Yusuf Kamel, Brit James Brewer, Lagat and Lomong (the front reached 1,200m in 2:57 thanks to van der Westhuizen). Early on, it was noticeable that Mehdi Baala and Amine Laalou were going to take it easy in the back. They moved up later in the race to prominent positions at the front.

Not much happened in the race until the final lap. Baala charged to the front with Laalou, while Americans Lagat and Lomong had themselves perfectly positioned behind the new leaders. Coming up to 150m to go, those four - along with Kamel and Brewer - had separated themselves from the rest and were engaged in a full-out sprint finish.

Lomong looked great and almost won the heat, in fact he finished ahead of Lagat. Baala, however, did not look so good, falling back to 5th and almost to 6th. It's a good thing he hung on to fifth or else James Brewer would be in the final and not Baala. 0.2 seconds separated the two at the end.

The finishing splits were very fast. Laalou for the second straight round looked "Ramzi-esque" (not to say he's going to test positive, but that he has looked dominant like Rashid Ramzi used to look at these championships). The Americans looked great and Brit James Brewer ran an outstanding 3:37.27.

Notably, Kenyan medal hopeful Haron Keitany was a "DNS" (did not start).

Semifinal 1 Results

1 810 Amine Laalou MAR 3:36.68 Q
2 1198 Lopez Lomong USA 3:36.75 Q
3 1196 Bernard Lagat USA 3:36.86 Q
4 233 Yusuf Saad Kamel BRN 3:36.87 Q
5 436 Mehdi Baala FRA 3:37.07 Q
6 491 James Brewer GBR 3:37.27
7 366 Juan Carlos Higuero ESP 3:37.33
8 412 Henok Legesse ETH 3:37.79
9 249 Nathan Brannen CAN 3:38.97
10 983 Peter van der Westhuizen RSA 3:40.00
11 940 Rui Silva POR 3:41.30
723 Haron Keitany KEN DNS

Semifinal 1 Splits
400m: 57.87
800m: 1:58.89 (61.02)
1200m: 2:57.59 (58.70)
1500m: 3:36.69 (39.10)

300m: 43.3
700m: 1:43.3 (60.0)
1100m: 2:43.37 (60.1)
1500m: 3:36.69 (53.32)

Lopez Lomong After Qualifying

Asbel Kiprop & Bernard Lagat

Men's 1,500 Semifinal 2
The second semifinal of course featured more of the world's top milers. Would the cream again rise to the top or would some major upset occur? The closest thing to an upset in the second race was American Leo Manzano charging through the field in the final 200m to almost surpass everyone, including race favorite Asbel Kiprop.

Behind these two, five men booked tickets to the final as the two time qualifier spots were taken by Moroccans Mohamed Moustaoui and Abdalaati Iguider. Iguider had his nose at the front for a good portion of the race, but couldn't muster a kick worthy of his opponents and almost missed the final (0.08 seconds separated him from Brewer in the first heat).

Kiprop went right to the back of the pack in the early going. In fact, he left himself with a lot of room to make up even with only 400m left to go. But the spidery-legged, tall Kenyan pulled out to lane 3 and roared past the field, getting in striking distance with 150m to go. Despite getting boxed in a bit and having to navigate all that traffic, Kiprop still broke the tape just ahead of the surprising Manzano.

The final lap was covered by the leaders in 52.56 seconds. Kiprop's final lap was remarkable as it was probably more like 51.8 given he was almost last in the field at the bell, and he ran the first 200 of it in the outside of lane 2 and into lane 3 for the first 200. Coming down the homestretch, Kiprop rallied on the inside. His last 800 was 1:50 flat or 1:49.9. He clearly is the favorite for the final.

The final will be composed of five 2 Kenyans (plus Kenyan-born Lagat, Mansoor Ali and Kamel), 2 Bahrainians, 3 Americans, 3 Moroccans, 1 Ethiopian, 1 Frenchman and a partridge in a pear tree.

Semifinal 2 Results

1 727 Asbel Kiprop KEN 3:36.24 Q
2 1203 Leonel Manzano USA 3:36.29 Q
3 721 Augustine Kiprono Choge KEN 3:36.43 Q
4 413 Deresse Mekonnen ETH 3:36.86 Q
5 232 Belal Mansoor Ali BRN 3:36.87 Q
6 811 Mohamed Moustaoui MAR 3:36.94 q
7 808 Abdalaati Iguider MAR 3:37.19 q
8 362 Reyes Estévez ESP 3:37.55 (SB)
9 106 Taoufik Makhloufi ALG 3:37.87
10 144 Jeffrey Riseley AUS 3:38.00
11 489 Andrew Baddeley GBR 3:38.23
12 1239 Dorian Ulrey USA 3:39.33

Semifinal 2 Splits

400m: 57.9
800m: 2:00.82 (62.9)
1200m: 2:56.83 (56.01)
1500m: 3:36.25 (39.42)

300m: 42.1
700m: 1:45.0 (62.7)
1100m: 2:43.69 (58.69)
1500m: 3:36.25 (52.56)

Dorian Ulrey After Elimination

Leo Manzano After Making His 1st World Final

Women's 800m Semifinals - Jelimo & Americans Eliminated

The women’s 800 meter semifinals produced some drama, as both the Olympic gold and bronze medalists from Beijing, Pamela Jelimo and Hasna Benhassi, were eliminated. Also eliminated were all three Americans, including world #2 Maggie Vessey, who never was a factor in the last of the three semis.

Heat 1 - With only two automatic qualifiers from each heat, a fast early pace was expected and heat one certainly delivered on that. After an early battle for the pole, the Ukraine's Yuliya Krevsun had the lead at 200 (28.35) and was followed by many-time medallist Hasna Benhassi (2004 Olympic silver, 2008 Olympic bronze, 2005 and 2007 WC silver).

At 400 (58.01), Krevsun would have a big lead of 6 to 7 meters, which would stretch to more than 10 meters on the turn. The gap started to close by 600 (1:28.52). In the last 100, Russia's Mariya Savinova would move up and pass Krevsun near the line to get the heat win in 1:59.30 to Krevsun's 1:59.38.

Benhassi was well-poised to advance but in the last 100, she faded back to 4th. Spain's Mayte Martinez, who earned a bronze at the last World Champs in 2007, made a nice late charge to grab third in 1:59.72, which would end up as the 2nd of the two time-qualifying spots for the final.

NCAA champ Geena Gall ended up 6th in 2:01.30.

800m Heat 1 Splits
58.01 (29.66)
1:28.52 (30.51)
1:59.31 (30.79)
1 3 824 Mariya Savinova RUS 1:59.30 Q
2 6 935 Yuliya Krevsun UKR 1:59.38 Q
3 1 309 Mayte Martínez ESP 1:59.72 q (SB)
4 5 631 Hasna Benhassi MAR 2:00.06
5 4 406 Jemma Simpson GBR 2:00.57
6 7 989 Geena Gall USA 2:01.30
7 2 257 Zulia Calatayud CUB 2:01.53
8 8 361 Élodie Guégan FRA 2:04.38

Heat 2 - Defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei, who was placed into the semifinals after being tripped in the first round, took things out hard, as 200 was reached in 26.89. She was followed by the world leader and the person who tripped her in the first round, Caster Semenya of South Africa.

At 400 (58.11), the 19-year-old Semenya was in the lead and she wouldn’t relinquish it. Semenya hit 600 in 1:28.74 and would pull away over the final 200 and win the heat easily in 1:58.66.

Jepkosgei was a clear 2nd 50 meters from the finish line but the UK's Jenny Meadows made a late charge in the homestretch and gained rapidly on Jepkosgei. Jepkosgei made an amateur mistake and let up just before theline. At the line, it was very close. Meadows ended up second in 1:59.45, but in the end it didn't matter as Jepkosgei would be fortunate enough to advance as the first of two time qualifiers thanks to her 1:59.47.

The late charge by Meadows certainly looked like a late charge that might steal a medal in a fast-paced final.

American Hazel Clark had a seasonal best run to finish 4th in 1:59.96, but she ended up as the first person out of the final.

Clark was in tears afterwards and vowed to get the elusive medal on her resumé. She said (interview below) "I broke two minutes. I am a little disappointed. I'll get past it. It always feels good to break two minutes. I was the first one to miss. It was a close call. But this year, I had so many naysayers. I've been here for so long. I have worked so hard for so long. I'm going to keep working hard until I get the medal that I have been working for."

Jepkosgei afterwards said, "It's not the way I wanted to run. It's going to be hard (to defend the title). If I'm going to be on the podium, I will accept what I am going to get." When asked to single out an athlete for the final she said, "I think the South African athlete lady (Semenya), she is strong"

800m Heat 2 Splits
26.89 (Semenya)
58.11 (31.22)
1:28.74 (30.63)
1:58.67 (29.93)

1 4 772 Caster Semenya RSA 1:58.66 Q
2 6 403 Jennifer Meadows GBR 1:59.45 Q
3 7 589 Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei KEN 1:59.47 q
4 7 976 Hazel Clark USA 1:59.96 (SB)
5 5 802 Svetlana Klyuka RUS 2:00.48
6 3 945 Tetiana Petlyuk UKR 2:00.90
7 8 880 Lucia Klocová SVK 2:01.56
8 1 478 Marian Burnett GUY 2:02.75
2 632 Halima Hachlaf MAR DNF

Hazel Clark In Tears Afterwards

Caster Semenya After Making Her 1st World Final

Heat 3 - The American world #2 Maggie Vessey's spectacular 2009 season has been full of some amazing highs, but interspersed amongst her world #2 and victories at Pre, Berlin and Monaco were subpar runs at USAs and London. Well, Vessey picked an awful day to have her third subpar race of the season, as she was never a factor and was eliminated after her 7th place, 2:03.55 showing.

The pace in the third heat was modest for the first 200 (28.86) and then really slowed over the next 200 as 400 was reached in 61.25, which certainly wasn't ideal for Vessey, who generally comes from way back in the pack. But the pace wasn't an issue as Vessey simply wasn't in the race. Despite the modest pace, she was off the back in last - some two or three meters behind the next-to-last runner.

Vessey After Being Eliminated

Given the slow pace, it was hard to imagine the top runners would come back, but Vessey never made a charge. Much like her race in London on July 24th, Vessey was stuck in one gear and it was a slow one. The only runner she passed on the 2nd lap was the Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo, who suffered an injury and came to a stop and dropped out before 600 meters. Press reports indicate she had a problem with her ankle after being spiked in the prelims.

The runners up front - Italy's Elisa Cusma Piccione and Marilyn Okoro - would negative-split the race to gain the only two qualifying spots from the heat, as they'd go 1-2 in 2:00.62 and 2:01.02, respectively.

A nice day for the British mid-d runners, as Okoro and Meadows both made the final.

Video with Vessey to the left. USATF quotes, "I'm not sure what really happened. I felt kind of disconnected. Not only from the race, but from myself a little bit. In the warm-up, I was not like feeling really secure. There were a lot of question going on pre-race, instead of like a real like, "This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to execute." I was a little wishy-washy, and I raced a little wishy-washy. I tried within 350 to 300 to move. But another girl was sneaking out, too. Then I saw how far behind I was. It was a little defeated right there. Maybe at the Olympic Trials I was way more inside, way more gumption to go for it. This time, I was feeling so disconnected to begin with. It's bad when I come to a place like this. I don't feel like I put in a real effort. I feel like I let it go. This was the most amazing experience. I got here. What are you going to do?"

800m Heat 3 Splits
61.25 (32.39) favorites Jelimo and Vessey way back
1:30.47 29.22)
2:00.64 (30.17)

1 6 503 Elisa Cusma Piccione ITA 2:00.62 Q
2 1 392 Marilyn Okoro GBR 2:01.01 Q
3 8 726 Anna Rostkowska POL 2:01.40
4 5 803 Elena Kofanova RUS 2:02.02
5 3 541 Kenia Sinclair JAM 2:02.31
6 2 287 Lenka Masná CZE 2:02.55
7 4 1035 Maggie Vessey USA 2:03.55
7 588 Pamela Jelimo KEN DNF

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