Jenny Simpson Survives A Big Scare As Three Americans Advance And Genzebe Dibaba Goes Home In Round 1 Of Olympic 1,500m

August 6, 2012
London, England

The big news out of Round 1 of the women's 1,500m was that World Indoor Champion Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia failed to qualify for the semifinals and fell to the track afterwards clutching her left hamstring. The other big news was World Outdoor Champion Jenny Simpson managed to just squeak by into the semifinals with the final automatic qualifying spot after a late charge. Simpson will be joined in the semifinals with her two American teammates, 2011 world #1 Morgan Uceny, who advanced automatically out of heat number three, and 2009 World Championships bronze medallist Shannon Rowbury, who was the first time qualifier for the semi.

Heat #2 Gets First Billing - The World Champion Jenny Simpson Is Lucky To Get Out Of The First Round
Let's start with Heat #2 and Simpson first. The World Champion, who went from last to first last year on the final lap for gold in Daegu, found herself in tenth place at the bell in heat number two in a slow race. Not only was she in tenth; there was a significant gap between her and the main pack, and only six would qualify for the semifinal from her heat. Simpson started trying to make up ground. With 100m to go, she was only in ninth and there was still a gap between the front six, two chasers, and then her. Simpson charged furiously down the homestretch and started making up ground. It was very tight for the fifth, six, and seventh spots, and Simpson leaned at the line and was rewarded with the last qualifying spot by .05. Simpson may want to send a thank you note to sub-4:00 Russian Ekaterina Martynova, who ended up seventh, .05 behind Simpson. Martynova appeared to have a qualifying spot in the bag, but appeared to let up at the line. Perhaps she was just tired, but she did not appear to run through the line, and definitely didn't lean.

Simpson definitely leaned and said afterwards she was not sure she made it until the results came up on the big screen. Simpson said the race was extremely physical and she consciously let the field open a gap on her to get out of the contact. The gap opened quickly from 500 to 400 remaining and Simpson said she realized the gap had gotten too big, but it was too late. She needed last lap heroics again. This time not for gold, but just to make the next round (screen shots below).

Simpson was relieved to make the semi. Now she will start from scratch in two days while having run slower than all the other women in the semis. Simpson said her success at Worlds last year gave her a sense of false confidence and she realizes she cannot expect the last lap heroics to happen all the time.

Simpson said to USATF, "If people want to see my miracle kick that was definitely a miracle today. I ran the slowest race to make it in. At this point, what's done is done, I have to move on. It was really physical up front. With about 200 meters to go I realized I needed to do something so I put my head down and didn't look up until 5 meters to the line. I think it's the first time in my life I've leaned at the line."

Brit Lisa Dobriskey won Simpson's heat before the loud 80,000 morning session crowd. Martynova was the big casualty in heat 1, having run sub-four this year.

Screen Shots of Simpson from BBC Coverage Last Lap:

500m To Go (In Fine Position)

400m To Go (Oops)

100m To Go (Oops)

A Happy Simpson Reacts To Realizing She Snuck In
(Thanks to "SomeActualData" - An LRC Visitor - For The Photo)

QT: Simpson can't keep running how she is running. There is no way she can go from last to first like last year, as the 1,500m field is much stronger this year. We would have said the same thing last year as well and she proved us wrong, but we guarantee she can't go from last to first this year on the last lap.

QT #2: We were looking for signs after her second place showing in London after the US Trials that Simpson had regained her magical form from last year, but she didn't look good at all today. Based on the first round, it will be a surprise if she makes the final and a stunner if she medals.

1 1854 Lisa Dobriskey GBR 4:13.32 Q .
2 2470 Siham Hilali MAR 4:13.34 Q .
3 3084 Asli Çakir Alptekin TUR 4:13.64 Q .
4 1648 Nuria Fernández ESP 4:13.72 Q .
5 1075 Kaila McKnight AUS 4:13.80 Q .
6 3316 Jennifer Simpson USA 4:13.81 Q .
7 2878 Ekaterina Martynova RUS 4:13.86 .
8 1260 Genzeb Shumi BRN 4:14.02 .
9 1698 Meskerem Assefa ETH 4:15.52 .
10 2344 Eunice Jepkoech Sum KEN 4:16.95 .
11 2936 Sonja Roman SLO 4:19.17 .
12 2446 Eliane Saholinirina MAD 4:19.46 .
13 2694 Renata Plis POL 4:19.62 .
14 1408 Chancel Ilunga Sankuru COD 5:05.25 .
. 2603 Ingvill Måkestad Bovim NOR DNS .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 1648 Nuria Fernández ESP 1:10.78
800m 2470 Siham Hilali MAR 2:23.47
1200m 1075 Kaila McKnight AUS 3:28.67

Heat #3: Morgan Uceny Advances, Dibaba Goes Out

Uceny At The Start

Heat #3 had the one big casualty of the morning session, as Genzebe Dibaba faded badly over the final 200m, then fell to the track afterwards grabbing her left hamstring and was wheeled off in a wheelchair. Dibaba, the younger sister of 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba, had been the indoor sensation in the ,1500m this year, winning the world indoor title.

2011 World Ranked #1 Morgan Uceny was in this heat, starting her campaign for redemption after falling at Worlds last year. Kenyan Faith Kipyegon did all the early leading, taking the field through a slow 800 (2:18.2) and she even still led at 1,200m after the pace got hot (3:19.5). The pace really accelerated in this heat from 800m to 1,200m (61.3). The 61.3 lap, however, did not thin out the field too much. This is the Olympic Games, after all.

Uceny had been fourth at 800m and was in sixth at the bell. She began to move up on the backstretch as Gamze Bulut of Turkey led with 200m to go. Bulut would maintain the lead to the finish and take the heat in 4:06.69 as Uceny moved up to finish second in 4:06.87. Dibaba had nothing the last 200m and left in agony with some sort of injury. Faith Kipyegon's early leading did her in as she missed the semifinal, but former Oregon Duck Zoe Buckman did make the semi.

Afterward, Uceny said after the Olympic Trials she had some foot issues (nerve impingement) as she has flat fleet. After the Trials, Uceny raced at Crystal Palace on July 13th and faded to 8th in 4:08.22. She took a little time off after that and is now feeling good. Uceny said surprisingly she was not nervous before the race, and was more nervous because she wasn't nervous. She said she could not help but smile when she entered the Olympic stadium to see the incredible crowd.

QT #1: Dibaba going out helps the medal chances of the Americans. Dibaba hadn't raced since June 7th and the question coming in was "Is she just taking off to try to get some base or rest in or is she hurt?" Clearly she has been hurt.

QT #2  The third 400 was a 61 but the last 400 was only a 62. We had the leader at 3:03-high at the bell, with Uceny probably 3:04 mid.

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 3083 Gamze Bulut TUR 4:06.69 Q .
2 3322 Morgan Uceny USA 4:06.87 Q .
3 1181 Natallia Kareiva BLR 4:06.87 Q (SB)
4 2872 Ekaterina Kostetskaya RUS 4:06.94 Q .
5 1255 Mimi Belete BRN 4:07.01 Q (SB)
6 1879 Laura Weightman GBR 4:07.29 Q .
7 1317 Nicole Sifuentes CAN 4:07.65 q .
8 1071 Zoe Buckman AUS 4:07.83 q .
9 2337 Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon KEN 4:08.78 .
10 1704 Genzebe Dibaba ETH 4:11.15 .
11 3117 Janet Achola UGA 4:11.64 .
12 1649 Isabel Macías ESP 4:13.07 .
13 3175 Anna Mishchenko UKR 4:13.63 .
14 3108 Betlhem Desalegn UAE 4:14.07 .
15 1608 Gladys Landaverde ESA 4:18.26 (NR)
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 2337 Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon KEN 1:10.71
800m 2337 Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon KEN 2:18.19
1,200m 2337 Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon KEN 3:19.56

Heat 1: Shannon Rowbury Advances

Heat 1 had a lot of medallists in it.

2004 Olympic silver medallist and 2005 World Champion Tatyanya Tomashova is back from her drug ban. She led this heat until the end, when Abeba Aregawi surged to get the meaningless heat win. The 22-year-old Aregawi came in with the fastest qualifying time of all the entrants at 3:56.54. Two-time world champion Maryam Jamal and world indoor 3,000m champion Hellen Obiri took the next two automatic qualifying spots. 2011 world silver medallist Hannah England of GB got the fifth qualifying spot as the crowd went nuts. That left one automatic qualifying spot.

2009 American bronze medallist Shannon Rowbury was in the mix throughout, but over the last 150m the top six got away from her, as Canadian Hilary Stellingwerff made the semifinal with the sixth and final automatic spot. Rowbury ended up in seventh but ended up advancing on time to the semi. Stony Brook star Lucy Van Dalen would make the semi as well on time. Before knowing she had advanced, Van Dalen said, "I ran a strong race today."

When we spoke to Shannon Rowbury, she was hopeful she would make the final. She said the first round is usually tough for her because it is often sit-and-kick. That was not the case today, as it was a bit faster. She said, "We ended up going out really quick. I tried my best to tuck in and conserve energy. The time was relatively quick so I hope I get in on time, I hope it's meant to be. I didn't quite close soon enough. I'll hopefully learn from that and change it in the semifinal, God willing.  I'm really been working on closing. I didn't really time it right, but hopefully this isn't the end."

Hilary Stellingwerff said it was nice to be able to just race instead of worrying about time (she spent much of the summer trying to hit the Canadian Olympic standards).

QT #1: Three Americans in the semis. America last year was the top country in the world at 1,500m and they and Great Britain were the only countries to advance three to the semis.

1 1697 Abeba Aregawi ETH 4:04.55 Q .
2 2899 Tatyana Tomashova RUS 4:05.10 Q .
3 1259 Maryam Yusuf Jamal BRN 4:05.39 Q .
4 2341 Hellen Onsando Obiri KEN 4:05.40 Q .
5 1855 Hannah England GBR 4:05.73 Q .
6 1320 Hilary Stellingwerff CAN 4:05.79 Q .
7 3314 Shannon Rowbury USA 4:06.03 q .
8 2616 Lucy Van Dalen NZL 4:07.04 q .
9 2995 Lucia Klocová SVK 4:07.79 q (NR)
10 1938 Corinna Harrer GER 4:07.83 q .
11 2956 Marina Muncan SRB 4:11.25 .
12 1530 Tereza Capková CZE 4:12.15 .
13 3188 Anzhelika Shevchenko UKR 4:12.97 .
14 1656 Natalia Rodríguez ESP 4:16.18 .
15 3090 Tugba Karakaya TUR 4:29.21 .
. 2472 Btissam Lakhouad MAR DNF .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 2899 Tatyana Tomashova RUS 1:07.18
800m 2899 Tatyana Tomashova RUS 2:13.67
1,200m 2899 Tatyana Tomashova RUS 3:18.97

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