2012 Olympic Track & Field Men's 1,500 Final: Taoufik Makhloufi Dominates As Leo Manzano Surprises With Silver

Manzano Wins US's First 1,500 Olympic Medal Since 1968 As Matt Centrowtiz Just Misses The Bronze

By LetsRun.com
August 7, 2012
London, England

Editor's note: Update: We break down and analyze the men's 1,500m below. We now have post-race reaction from all the top athletes, in a second LRC article here.

The men's 1,500 produced a dominant and controversial champion as Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi destroyed the field from 300 meters out. His 12.6 100 on the backstretch gave him a lead which he never came close to relinquishing as he closed in 52.7 and won in 3:34.08. Makhloufi won tonight's final after initially being disqualified from the Olympics yesterday for not giving an honest effort in the first round of the 800 before the IAAF reversed course after he produced a doctor's note saying he was injured.

In the end, there was a shock silver medallist as US champion Leo Manzano, who was just 10th at the bell and 8th with 200 meters remaining and 6th with 100 remaining, used a fantastic kick in the last 200 and particularly in the last 100 to mow down the field and finish second in 3:34.79, earning America it's first Olympic silver since Jim Ryun won silver 44 years ago in 1968. Last year's bronze medallist Matt Centrowitz, who was just ahead of Manzano for most of the last 200, closed well also and ended up just missing a medal as his lean at the line came up just a bit short of Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider, who ran 3:35.13 to Centrowitz's 3:35.17.

The defending champion Asbel Kiprop, who had been dealing with a hamstring issue that he hoped wouldn't impact him in the final, clearly was impacted, as he ran as if he was injured. He ran in the back of the field from start to finish and finished last by a long shot in 3:43.83.

The Race
The pace was modest at the start, as the first 400 was covered in 58.30 and 800 in 1:58.63. Throughout the early going, the reigning champ Kiprop was in the back, whereas the eventual champ and all of the eventual medallists were near the front. American Matt Centrowitz and 2008 silver medallist Nick Willis of New Zealand found themselves in ideal tactical positions for most of the race near the front as well. For the first 800, little changed position-wise, as the first six remained in the same basic positions in pairs throughout. Bahrain's Ali Belal Mansoor and Kenya's Nixon Chepseba were side-by-side in first and second, Centrowitz and Iguider were side-by-side in third and fourth and Willis and Makhloufi were side-by-sideside in fifth and sixth. At both 400 and 800, eventual silver medallist Leo Manzano was back in tenth on the rail. Heading into the homestretch for the next-to-last time, the guys started to get a bit antsy, as this race was coming down to the last lap and everyone was still in it at the bell, as shown by the following picture with about 440 meters left.

Twice on the homestretch, Makhloufi used his hands to squeeze between some runners as he moved up  in the middle of the track to essentially lead at the bell (technically he was in second just to the outside of Chepseba by the bell). Makhloufi paused his forward assault on the turn, but when 2011 silver medallist Silas Kiplagat of Kenya, who had worked hard the previous 300 meters to get near the front, tried to take the lead (and Kiplagat technically briefly did lead at 1,200 when he was on the outside of Makhloufi's shoulder), Makhloufi responded and took the lead outright for the first and final time with what the BBC said was a 12.6 100 meters on the backstretch.

By the time 200m remained, only Kiplagat was anywhere close to him (roughly 5 meters back), as the big move on the backstretch had inflicted lethal damage to the field. With 200 left, the two eventual medallists in Iguider and Manzano were roughly 10 and 15 meters back in fourth and eighth respectively. Makhloufi's lead would only get bigger and bigger on the turn as Kiplagat started to fade.

Coming onto the homestretch, Makhloufi's lead was twice as big and the race was for all practical purposes over - if it wasn't already so with 200 left. With 100 remaining, Makhloufi led by roughly 10 meters on Kiplagat and Ethiopia's Mekonnen Gebremedhin, who had been full of run on the turn. But the Ethiopian and Kenyan would pay a steep price for trying to go with Makhloufi as they'd tie up in the homestretch and would end up in sixth and seventh respectively. Iguider came by with 40 meters left before Manzano, who'd been running just behind Centrowitz on the final turn, came by like a bolt of lightning into the silver position with roughly 30 meters left. Manzano's last 100 really was simply sensational, as everyone else looked like they were standing still compared to him.

Centrowitz came up .04 short of passing Iguider for bronze.

How Fast Was The Finish?
Makhloufi's close tonight was very similar to what it was in the semifinal except the different tonight was it was a 3:34 race and not a 3:42 race. On Sunday, he closed in roughly 1:49 high to 1:50 flat with a last 300 of about 39-flat. Tonight, he closed in approximately 1:50-flat (57.3, 52.7) with a last 300 of roughly 39.3.

Manzano's close also was impressive. What really helped give him the silver is the fact that he was either unable or unwilling to go with Makhloufi's big move on the backstretch. When everyone really started cranking between 1,200 and 1,300, Manzano was gapped by the leading eight guys in the field, as shown by the following picture where you see Manzano in ninth with toughly 275 meters remaining.

Even before that, on the first turn of the last lap, Manzano got to run the whole thing on the inside of lane one as everyone else who was going for it was too far ahead.

We had Makhhloufi's final 200 in about 26.7 and Manzano's faster at 26.2, but it was hard to tell if Makhloufi was tired in the last 50 or just enjoying his victory.

Makhloufi certainly did enjoy the victory after the finish, as shown by the following two pictures. The second one is of him trying to do his version of the Bolt - except his included him shooting fake arrows over the stadium.

 A Happy Taoufik Makhloufi
More 1,500 Photos

Taoufik Makhloufi
*More 1,500 Photos

Manzano was pretty happy himself.

 A Happy Leo Manzano
More 1,500 Photos

Leo Manzano Celebrating With US And Mexican Flags
More 1,500 Photos

Quick takes and results below.

Quick Take (QT) #1
Anyone that tried to battle with Makhloufi ended up paying a big, big price.

We've always thought that running to win and running to medal are sometimes two totally different races that can result in some drastically different results, but no one in a million years would have predicted that Nick Willis, Nixon Chepseba and Asbel Kiprop would take three of the last four places.

QT #3: This one is going to take some time to analyze and make sense of. A friend of ours who went sub-3:40 back in the day called us after the race and said, "How did that happen?" We asked, "What do you mean?" He responded, "Makhloufi's dominant win, Manzano's medal, the Kenyans bombing. All of it."

QT #4: We'll start and end the analysis for now by sharing some stats that LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg came up with after the Makhloufi's dominant semifinal win. We know many people are suspicious of Makhloufi's sudden rise to dominance but JK's stats reveal that people have closed way faster in the past. Here's his email to us:

      The fastest final 800s in a 1,500 that I can think of:

      Abdi Bile (Somalia) ran a 1:46.0 last 800 in the 1987 Worlds to get the gold in 3:36.80.

      Rui Silva (Portugal) ran a 1:46.3 last 800 in the 2004 Olympics to get the bronze in 3:34.68.

      Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) ran a 1:46.7 last 800 in the 2004 Olympics to get the gold in 3:34.19 (his lifetime best for the open 800 was 1:47.18).

      Bernard Lagat (Kenya) ran a 1:46.8 last 800 in the 2004 Olympics to get the silver in 3:34.30.

      El Guerrouj ran a 1:47.1 last 800 in the 1996 Grand Prix Final to end Noureddine Morceli's (Algeria) 4-year winning streak and win in 3:38.80.

      The world record for 1,500 is 1:49.87 800 pace, so closing in under 1:50 in a slow-starting and physical race is impressive, but not otherworldly.

QT #5: We added this up top, but in case you missed it, Manzano's silver was the first US Olympic medal in the 1,500 since Jim Ryun won silver in Mexico City in 1968. The US last won gold in the 1,500 at the London Olympics of 1908.

More: *We now have post-race reaction from all the top athletes in a second LRC article here.
Men's 1,500m Reaction From The Stars
Leo Photo Gallery *MB: The Official Men's 1,500m Thread

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 1008 Taoufik Makhloufi ALG 3:34.08 .
2 3234 Leonel Manzano USA 3:34.79 (SB)
3 2456 Abdalaati Iguider MAR 3:35.13 .
4 3210 Matthew Centrowitz USA 3:35.17 .
5 2596 Henrik Ingebrigtsen NOR 3:35.43 (NR)
6 1687 Mekonnen Gebremedhin ETH 3:35.44 .
7 2299 Silas Kiplagat KEN 3:36.19 .
8 3078 Ilham Tanui Ă–zbilen TUR 3:36.72 .
9 2612 Nicholas Willis NZL 3:36.94 .
10 1252 Belal Mansoor Ali BRN 3:37.98 .
11 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 3:39.04 .
12 2300 Asbel Kiprop KEN 3:43.83 .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 1252 Belal Mansoor Ali BRN 58.30
800m 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 1:58.63
1,200m 2299 Silas Kiplagat KEN 2:54.72

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