2012 Olympic Men's 1,500 Recaps: After A Stunning, Stunning Win In Heat 1 - Do We Have A New Favorite?

Former 1,500 World Record Holder Steve Cram Couldn't Believe What He Was Watching - Was It Too Good To Be True?

By LetsRun.com
London, UK
August 5, 2012

Two rounds of the 1,500 final have been run and the results show that the six men who had separated themselves from everyone else during the pre-Championship season by running 3:31.45 or faster on the year (no one else had run faster than 3:33.32) - all will be in the final. And so will last year’s bronze medallist in American Matt Centrowitz (as well as Leo Manzano).

But that’s not to say that the two rounds of the 1,500 - and particularly today’s semifinals - were not dramatic. Big casualties didn’t happen but they were dramatic as the winners of today’s two semifinals didn’t come in on many people's radars as potential champions. But anyone watching the two semis today - particularly Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi win in the first semi when he gapped reigning Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprop - must be wondering if Kenya’s top duo of Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat, who went 1-2 at Worlds last year and had the top two times of the year coming in, are now the underdogs.

Heat 1 - Taoufik Makhloufi Looked So, So Good - Maybe Too Good?
The reigning Olympic and World champ Asbel Kiprop, who has been known to at times put himself in a terrible tactical positions, ran as if he knew the only way he wasn’t going to make the final was if he did something really stupid or fell. When the gun went off, Kiprop went to the front and was in a good position for virtually the entire race. He led, but the pace was slow - 63.73 for 400 and 2:07.20 for 800 - but when anyone tried to come around him, Kiprop smartly sped up to stay in a good position. As could be expected, the pace increased on the third lap but it was clear at the bell (2:51-high) that this was going to come down to a fast final 400. 1,200 was reached in 3:03.16, meaning the previous 400 had been run in 55.94, but they were just getting started as the eventual heat winner Taoufik Makhloufi would run his final 300 in sub-39 and his final lap in about 52.50.

Makhloufi’s final 250 was stunning. On the final bend, he just totally and almost instantly ran away from Kiprop like he was standing still and came into the homestretch with probably a 15-meter lead.

And we weren’t the only ones stunned by it. Listening to the BBC replay of the race, we realized that former 1,500 world record holder Steve Cram was so stunned by Makloufi’s final turn that mid-race Cram bursted out. "That's unusual to see the Algerian run this well. ... I'm not sure what I'm watching with Makhloufi there ..." The comment was not said in awe but more disbelief. What was left unsaid was the implication of, "Are we going to see a repeat of 2008, when a doped runner from North Africa (Rashid Ramzi) ran away with the 1,500 title?"

Seriously, this heat win was that stunning. Insiders of the sport were all thinking the same thing, as the message board instantly blew up with doping talk.

Makhloufi's final 800 was probably 1:49-high as he won the heat in 3:42.24 to Kiprop’s 3:42.92. American
Leo Manzano ran most of the race in the middle to back third of the pack and kicked well on the last lap to finish fourth in 3:42.94 and automatically qualify for the final as a top-five finisher. Manzano actually pulled ahead of Kiprop roughly 15 meters before the finish line before Kiprop picked it up right before the line. Andrew Wheating ran in last for most of the race before finishing ninth in 3:44.88.

Update  LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg has emailed in some perspective on Makloufi's close saying in the past other guys have closed much faster in much faster races. At least four times, top guys in the 800 have closed with 1:46 final 800s in races that ended up in the 3:34 to 3:36 range. See his analysis here

Makhloufi Does Have Credentials
In case you’re not familiar with Taoufik Makhloufi, the Algerian did come in with some nice credentials. He came in seeded sixth after having most recently raun 3:30.80 for 5th in Monaco. He also was the African Games 800m Champion in 1:43.88. So he definitely is having a good year and has some credentials, but nothing would indicate he’d totally gap Kiprop.

Kiprop told LRC he was aware of Makhloufi, as he knew he ran 3:30.8 in Monaco and said of Makhloufi, “He's a strong guy. He's coming strong.”

Kiprop said he was content to let him go, saying, “I just wanted to see I stayed in the top 5 and had automatic qualification.”

Kiprop said he is ready for the final and this time there will be Kenyan team tactics with 3 Kenyans in the final. Interestingly, his teammate Silas Kiplagat said the final was about every individual doing his best, not team tactics, see below.

Kiprop twice talked about working as a team and said, “We will work as a team and that is our secret. We cannot talk about it.”

Afterwards, Leo Manzano did not talk to the media, blowing through the mixed zone just like he did at the US Trials and after round 1 of the Olympics.

Wheating Speaks - Will He Call It A Season?
American Andrew Wheating, who has been battling plantar fasciitis, saw his Olympic dream come to an end as he ended up 9th in 3:44.88.

On his race, Wheating said, "Obviously it goes one of two ways: it goes slow or fast. I was kind of hoping it would be fast, but it was slow. There are a lot of mistakes I made. It was frustrating because I should have caught them, but I didn’t have the confidence and the mentality to really push myself through the race. I’m emotional, I kind of put a lot into each race and it was just hard in this one to believe that I would make it from one round to the next. That’s an error I need to work on a lot ... lesson learned."

Afterwards when asked whether he would call it a season now, he wasn't sure but said, "I kind of need to recharge."

Wheating said at this Olympics he did a better job of treating it as track meet instead of getting caught up in the hoopla. With his injury, not making the final was not a surprise.

Ryan Gregson, the Aussie star, was fourth at the bell but ended up last and was limping afterwards in the mixed zone. He revealed that he was spiked badly in the first 100m of his round 1 race. He didn't realize it until after the race but he suffered a slight tear of his calf which affected him here.

Quick Thought #1: There really are only three - make that four - possible explanations for how Makhloufi could totally run away from Kiprop, who ran 3:28 just over two weeks ago in Monaco.

1) Kiprop was taking it easy like he said. But Makhloufi still ran away from everyone else in the field as well.
2) There is something wrong with Kiprop (illness?)/injury. While Kiprop didn’t say anything about an injury to LetsRun, N
BC reporter Craig Masback said Kiprop had an Achilles injury. The Kenyan website Capital FM quotes Kiprop talking about a hamstring issue. "I have a slight strain with my hamstring but there’s nothing to worry about." But again, Makhloufi ran away from everyone else as well.
3) Makhloufi is pulling a Rashid Ramzi and is on performance enhancers.
4) Makhloufi is suddenly one of the all-time greats, as he just destroyed one of the all-time greats.

Heat 1 - 05 August 2012 - 20:15
Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 1008 Taoufik Makhloufi ALG 3:42.24 Q .
2 2300 Asbel Kiprop KEN 3:42.92 Q .
3 1687 Mekonnen Gebremedhin ETH 3:42.93 Q .
4 3234 Leonel Manzano USA 3:42.94 Q .
5 2596 Henrik Ingebrigtsen NOR 3:43.26 Q .
6 2460 Mohamed Moustaoui MAR 3:43.33 .
7 2377 Mohammed Shaween KSA 3:43.39 .
8 1757 Yoann Kowal FRA 3:43.48 .
9 3261 Andrew Wheating USA 3:44.88 .
10 1824 Ross Murray GBR 3:44.92 .
11 2756 Hamza Driouch QAT 3:49.40 .
12 1044 Ryan Gregson AUS 3:51.86 .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 2300 Asbel Kiprop KEN 1:03.73
800m 2300 Asbel Kiprop KEN 2:07.20
1,200m 2300 Asbel Kiprop KEN 3:03.16

Heat 2: Abdalaati Iguider Wins As Nick Willis & Matt Centrowitz Advance
Kenya’s Nixon Chepseba, who was tripped in the first round and only advanced to the semis after an appeal, didn’t want to mess around in traffic today, and thus he took things out in 56.03 and 1:54.67. He actually gapped the field, as shown by the following picture:

Eventually, by 900 he was caught by the rest of the field. At the bell, Chepseba and fellow Kenyan Silas Kiplagat were 1-2 as American Matt Centrowitz was 7th. But the 55-second last lap belonged to world indoor champion Abdalaati Iguider, who looked very good - but not as good as the heat 1 winner - in winning the heat comfortably in 3:33.99 to Kiplagat’s 3:34.60 in a heat where the top 7 would all advance. Other auto qualifiers included Beijing silver medallist Nick Willis and Daegu bronze medallist Centrowitz. The two savvy tacticians were both hanging out near the last auto qualifying spot when the real racing began and ended up third (Willis 3:34.70) and fifth (3:34.90).

Quick Take (QT) #1: Even though the margin of victory in heat 2 was similar to heat 1, it wasn’t as impressive (or unbelievable if you are a cynic), as there wasn’t a sudden and dramatic burst to a huge lead.

QT #2: Don't let Iguider's 3:34 seasonal best full you. If you aren't familiar with the 25-year-old Iguider, you need to realize that he also has some nice credentials to his name. He won World indoors this year. In his only outdoor 1,500/mile race of the year, he ran 3:51.78 for the mile at Pre on June 2nd and then a week later ran 13:09 for 5,000.

QT #3: LRC didn’t catch-up with Centrowitz afterwards but Runnersworld did and the savvy American has high hopes for the final after last year’s bronze, saying, "I wanted to run with confidence and give myself the feeling that I belong here. There’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot different from Worlds last year. If you had asked me a year ago how I would do in the final, I might say: top six, top eight. But now everything is different. I’m healthy, so we’ll see what kind of race it is."

QT #4: Silas Kiplagat had a different take on the final than teammate Asbel Kiprop, who talked about the team. After saying, "It's easier to run in the finals" (than in the semi), Kiplagat said, "For me the final will be a final. It's an individual's race so it will depend on how I run that day. ... We can not say it will be groupwork." He added, "The medal belongs to one person so we cannot share (it)." He did say it was better that Nixon Chebseba made the final as well, saying, "If both of us are in the finals it is better."

As for Iguider, Kiplagat said he told Chebseba, "Don’t mind (worry) about him. Mind about him in the finals."

QT #5: One person Kiplagat will have to contend with in the final is Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis. Willis jumped up and down in the mixed zone presumably trying to flush acidity from his legs, saying, "I'm through safely. I'm happy. Now I've got to get this lactic acid out of my legs," before running off.

QT #6 Willis' college teammate Nate Brannen was the unfortunate athlete who is super fit, only to go down in a fall. Brannen’s appeal of the fall was denied. Athletics Canada said, "Jury of appeal looked at the video. It clearly showed that Nate clipped the heels of the athlete in front of him, went down, and was then stepped on while he was on the ground. That’s where the spike marks came from."

Brannen said to LRC, "I was ready to run 3:34 today. it's a tough break."

Heat 2 - 05 August 2012 - 20:25
Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 2456 Abdalaati Iguider MAR 3:33.99 Q (SB)
2 2299 Silas Kiplagat KEN 3:34.60 Q .
3 2612 Nicholas Willis NZL 3:34.70 Q .
4 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 3:34.89 Q .
5 3210 Matthew Centrowitz USA 3:34.90 Q (SB)
6 3078 Ilham Tanui Özbilen TUR 3:35.18 q .
7 1252 Belal Mansoor Ali BRN 3:35.40 q (SB)
8 1800 Andrew Baddeley GBR 3:36.03 .
9 2752 Mohamad Al-Garni QAT 3:36.78 .
10 2820 Egor Nikolaev RUS 3:37.28 (PB)
11 1922 Carsten Schlangen GER 3:38.23 .
12 1282 Nathan Brannen CAN 3:39.26 .
13 1746 Florian Carvalho FRA 3:40.61 .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 56.03
800m 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 1:54.67
1,200m 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 2:52.76


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