2012 Olympic Men's 1,500 First Round Recap: The Favorites That Show Up Advance, But Not Without Some Intrigue

*More: MB: The Official Men's 1,500m Thread

By LetsRun.com from London, UK
August 3, 2012

In the end, the first round of the men's 1,500 ended up with no real big casualties, as after a protest saved the fate of #3 seed Nixon Chepseba of Kenya, the highest seed to not advance to the semis was Ethiopia's Dawit Wolde, who came in seeded #12 with a 3:33.32 seasonal best.

That doesn't mean that the medal chances for people like Nick Willis or Matt Centrowitz didn't improve in a significant way. They did, as two of top six seeds didn't even toe the start line. #4 seed Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti - the 19-year-old - didn't show up because of a stress fracture and #6 seed Amine Laalou was expelled due to a drug bust.

Kenya and the US were the only two countries to advance three each to the semis, but in a bit of a surprise, all three of the Americans made the semis on their own, whereas Kenya had to rely on a protest to get all three of their people through.

Heat 1: These Guys Show Why They Are In The Olympics
The first heat was by the fastest of the evening, as the first 11 all ran under 3:39 (the equivalent of a 3:56 or better for the mile).

Our eyes were on defending Olympic champ Asbel Kiprop, who advanced with ease, but the British fans were going nuts for 21-year-old Ross Murray, who also advanced automatically.

At the bell, Kiprop was in third and he'd drop down to fifth on the last turn but he had no trouble making the next round. Afterwards, Kiprop said he did not expect a 3:35 race in round 1 and was trying to run relaxed. The guy who had to work the hardest for the sixth and final auto qualifying spot was US Olympic Trials champ Leo Manzano.

Manzano was in 11th at the bell. This is the Olympics. Yes, they were running 3:53 mile pace and he was 11th. He moved up the final 100m to finish sixth and clinch the final auto spot in the semifinal.

QT #1: Manzano would have advanced on time had he finished seventh. Despite the fact that he and Wheating reached the next round, our thoughts on the US's medallists chances are the same as they were coming into this event - Centro is our best legitimate hope.

QT #2: Aussie record holder Ryan Gregson, who ran 3:33 in May but had been struggling of late, finished ninth and advanced on time. He said before finding out he made the next round, "I just got tired. I should have been better than that. Fingers crossed they go slow (in the next heats), but it doesn't look good (to qualify for the next round). I haven't been quite right the last few races of the season." He told LRC, "It was bad. I should have been better than that."

QT #3: Afterwards, Asbel Kiprop said his rivalry with Silas Kiplagat is over and they will work together for a Kenyan gold, saying, "(The rivalry is) over in Daegu. I hope to run as a team. This is a big event and we have to work as a team." Interestingly, Kiwi Nick Willis (see below), who won heat 3, said he'd love to see the two Kenyan star try to run 3:29 without a rabbit as that would set him up perfectly with them serving as his rabbits.

Kiprop, the reigning Olympic champ, had never broken the magical 3:30 barrier until this year. Now he's run 3:28.88. When asked if his training had changed this year, Kiprop said he has been doing more endurance work.

QT #4: 11 guys made the semifinal from this heat.

Heat 1 - 03 August 2012 - 20:05

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 1008 Taoufik Makhloufi ALG 3:35.15 Q .
2 1687 Mekonnen Gebremedhin ETH 3:36.56 Q .
3 2300 Asbel Kiprop KEN 3:36.59 Q .
4 1824 Ross Murray GBR 3:36.74 Q .
5 2752 Mohamad Al-Garni QAT 3:36.99 Q .
6 3234 Leonel Manzano USA 3:37.00 Q .
7 1746 Florian Carvalho FRA 3:37.05 q (SB)
8 2460 Mohamed Moustaoui MAR 3:37.41 q .
9 1044 Ryan Gregson AUS 3:38.54 q .
10 1252 Belal Mansoor Ali BRN 3:38.69 q .
11 2820 Egor Nikolaev RUS 3:38.92 q (SB)
12 1635 Álvaro Rodríguez ESP 3:41.54 .
13 1601 Teklit Teweldebrhan ERI 3:42.88 .
14 2020 Mamadou Barry GUI 4:05.08 .
15 2592 Rabiou Guero Gao NIG 4:05.46 .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 1746 Florian Carvalho FRA 58.65
800m 2820 Egor Nikolaev RUS 1:57.37
1,200m 2752 Mohamad Al-Garni QAT 2:54.12

Heat 2: Andrew Wheating Sneaks In
Andrew Wheating got out near the front as he was in second at 400 (57.81 for the leader). The pace slowed a lot on the second lap (2:00.03) and Wheating found himself in the middle of the pack. At the bell, Wheating was 11th in the tactical heat. Coming for home, the top six auto qualifiers were clear of the rest of the field, with all the favorites - including World Championship silver medallist Silas Kiplagat - advancing. Wheating got ahead of everyone else to finish seventh and hoped to advance on time. With five finishers in the first heat already faster, he'd need some luck, and he'd get it, as he was the last qualifier for the final.

Afterwards Wheating said a "nasty" case of plantar fasciitis on his left foot has had him "swimming more miles than he's been running." He swims for his easy days and saves his running for speedwork. Before finding out from the media he had made the semi, Andrew said his Olympic heat was the first time since the Trials he had done speed work and not felt pain afterwards. He said, "If the race was tomorrow, I'd feel very confident." Now he's got that chance. He said, "Everyone out there has a 26-second finish ... (he added some have 24 and 25s).  It's a matter of running with confidence. I need to find my full confidence and run with it."

As for pressure, Wheating said he discussed pressure with world record holder in the decathlon Ashton Eaton, and they agreed the pressure was at the Olympic Trials. Wheating said, "This is about having fun and competing. Regardless of the result, your still going to be an Olympian, he's still going to be the World Record holder."

Wheating's got a lot of family in town for the Olympics, as his father - who was from South Africa - lived in the UK. Speaking about his family, Andrew said a lot them are thinking "I can't wait until he's done so we can go to the pub and have a pint."

Former Michigan star Nate Brannen was an auto qualifier, able to ease up the final 100m. The former Michigan Wolverine star said, "I felt incredible because my fitness is good." He said he thought the second heat was a little bit tougher than the other heats and doing well would set him up for the semifinal. As for his fitness, Brannen said it's simple - for the first time since before his freshman year of college he is healthy. He said, "I haven't missed a day of running this year. Just solid training. First time since, shit, before my freshman year I've had solid year of running." Brannen said he shut his season down earlier in August last year after not making Worlds and is now healthy. On his health and fitness he said, "It's showing of and hopefully it shows in the semi." He tried to get in some big European races this year but had no luck. So, "I've just been saving everything for this. If I can be a finalist, that is all that matters."

QT #1: The runner-up was 17-year-old Hamza Driouch of Qatar, who recently won world juniors.

QT #2: Wheating's struggles and Brannen's success show how important staying healthy is.

Heat 2 - 03 August 2012 - 20:15

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 2377 Mohammed Shaween KSA 3:39.42 Q (SB)
2 2756 Hamza Driouch QAT 3:39.67 Q .
3 3078 Ilham Tanui Özbilen TUR 3:39.70 Q .
4 2299 Silas Kiplagat KEN 3:39.79 Q .
5 1282 Nathan Brannen CAN 3:39.95 Q .
6 1800 Andrew Baddeley GBR 3:40.34 Q .
7 3261 Andrew Wheating USA 3:40.92 q .
8 1610 David Bustos ESP 3:41.34 .
9 2388 Dmitrijs Jurkevics LAT 3:41.40 .
10 1694 Dawit Wolde ETH 3:41.81 .
11 1728 Niclas Sandells FIN 3:42.67 .
12 1739 Jamale Aarrass FRA 3:45.13 .
13 2945 Mohamed Mohamed SOM 3:46.16 .
14 3362 Nabil Mohammed Al-Garbi YEM 3:55.46 (SB)
. 2458 Amine Laalou MAR DNS .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 1728 Niclas Sandells FIN 57.81
800m 1728 Niclas Sandells FIN 2:00.03
1,200m 1694 Dawit Wolde ETH 2:58.57

Heat 3: A Slow Start Helps Wheating - Chepseba Advances On Appeal
The opening 800 was very slow (2:03) and Andrew Wheating fans breathed a sigh of relief.

At the bell, 2008 silver medallist Nick Willis had the lead and Matt Centrowitz was in 6th. The biggest development happened on the backstretch when Kenya's Nixon Chepseba , who was running in third at the time, was clipped from behind. He did a great job of not going down, but his momentum was hurt a great deal and he didn't end up having the goods when the tightly-bunched field kicked for home in the last 200.

Coming off the last turn, Willis still led and he never relinquished it as he looked great throughout. Centrowitz was in sixth and looked smooth and comfortable as he moved up to 5th. Chepseba was directly behind Centrowitz at 1,400 but ran out of steam after getting knocked around on the backstretch.

A successful Kenyan protest did end up putting Chepseba in the next round. Despite what the Kenyan papers say, Chepseba was not fouled by American Matt Centrowitz. The one who clipped him from behind was Germany's Carsten Schlangen, shown by our screenshots as Centrowitz was in fifth, whereas Chepseba was in third with Shlangen behind him in fourth.

As for Centro, the World Championships bronze medallist purposely only addressed the media for thirty seconds saying, "It's nerve racking like most heats, but you know I got into a little bit of trouble with 250 to go; some guy almost fell, so I was definitely trying to stay out of trouble in these heats, and the guy falling right next to you makes that difficult. I was pleased with the finish."

We'll have more on Willis on Friday as he discussed the tactics for the final (daring the Kenyans to try and run 3:29 without a rabbit). Already with a silver medal in Beijing, he said he did not believe he could leave the track euphoric unless he had the gold medal. Willis has already had a big week off the track, carrying the New Zealand flag and then meeting the Queen in the Olympic village. He said to the IOC, "It has been such an incredible week, carrying the flag, meeting Her Majesty in the (Olympic) village and it's an honour to wear the black singlet again."

QT #1: Chepseba deserved to be put in the next round in our minds. He definitely was tripped from behind and it's not like they don't have room for a 13th guy in the semis when they ran as many as 15 in a heat today.

QT #2: Afterwards, Willis said he purposely went around Chepseba before the bell and took the lead as he wanted to box Chepseba in and make him try to work around traffic to make the final. It worked perfectly. One less Kenyan in the final would really help Willis.

QT #3: The semifinal heats are now up and can be found here.

Heat 3- 03 August 2012 - 20:25

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 2612 Nicholas Willis NZL 3:40.92 Q .
2 2456 Abdalaati Iguider MAR 3:41.08 Q .
3 1757 Yoann Kowal FRA 3:41.12 Q .
4 2596 Henrik Ingebrigtsen NOR 3:41.33 Q .
5 3210 Matthew Centrowitz USA 3:41.39 Q .
6 1922 Carsten Schlangen GER 3:41.51 Q .
7 1637 Diego Ruiz ESP 3:41.52 .
8 1683 Aman Wote ETH 3:41.67 .
9 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 3:42.29 .
10 2376 Emad Noor KSA 3:42.95 .
11 3351 Eduar Villanueva VEN 3:43.11 .
12 1088 Andreas Vojta AUT 3:43.52 .
13 2097 Ciaran O'Lionaird IRL 3:48.35 (SB)
14 2747 Samuel Vázquez PUR 3:49.19 .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
400m 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 59.51
800m 2295 Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba KEN 2:03.50
1,200m 2612 Nicholas Willis NZL 3:01.27

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