Men’s 1500: The Olympic Rematch All Fans Have Been Waiting For – Kiprop vs. Makhloufi (+ Kiplagat & Wote)

May 8, 2014

The 2014 IAAF Diamond League season begins with a bang on Friday in Doha.

If you thought the year might begin with the equivalent of some pre-season NFL Games, think again. This is the Diamond League and Doha 2014 is doing it’s best NASCAR impersonation. NASCAR starts its year each year with the Daytona 500 – the #1 race of the year.

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Doha 2014 is coming pretty close to that as the men’s 800 and men’s 1500 both feature sensational fields. You can read our men’s 800 preview here.

The men’s 1500 is previewed below and like the men’s 800 is pretty much “must watch” track and field action.

The 1500 features a clash between the best 1500 runner on the planet in 2013 and the last five plus years in 2008 Olympic and 2011 and 2013 World Champion Asbel Kiprop and the 2012 Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi.

Ever since he burst onto the scene as a teen prodigy, Asbel Kiprop of Kenya has been the #1 1500 man on the planet, largely unbeatable. Yes, it’s the 1500 and it’s hard to win every single race but Kiprop rarely loses except when he beats himself with tactical blunders (and tactical blunders have cost Kiprop plenty of times over the years) or when he is beaten by a doper (remember drug cheat Rashid Ramzi beat him in 2008 before being DQd for doping).

On the biggest stage, the only time in recent years when we’ve wondered, “Wow maybe that guy is actually better than Kiprop ,” came at the 2012 Olympics when Algeria’s Makhloufi absolutely dominated with a performance that was so good, many fans on the forums wondered if it was too good to be true.

Many fans wanted to see the somewhat unknown Makhloufi recreate his dominance again in 2013 to dispel their doubts. The thing that all sports have taught us over the last 30 years, whether it’s been in baseball (70+ home runs), cycling (7 TDF titles for Lance) or track and field, is that if something seemed to good to be true, often it was. Unfortunately, Makhloufi didn’t do himself any favors in 2013 as he only ran one major race – a 3:52.31 mile at Prefontaine last year.

A post-Olympic hangover certainly isn’t unexplainable. A second-straight sub-par season in 2014, however, certainly would at a minimum greatly tarnish Makhloufi’s legacy. His quest to prove that 2012 wasn’t either simply a fluke or the result of something much more sinister begins in earnest on Friday.

Kiprop, who last year became the fourth fastest man in history thanks to his sensational 3:27.72 in Monaco, enters 2014 dreaming big. Until last year, the only gaping hole on his resume was a super fast time. Now that he’s run 3:27.72 he’s talked about going back to Monaco this year and taking a crack as Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:26.00 world record.

Kiprop and Makhloufi are far from the only possible winners on Friday in the men’s 1500.

The field also includes Silas Kiplagat of Kenya. When he’s on his game, the 3:29.97 performer Kiplagat has proven himself to be a worthy rival to Kiprop both early in the year on the DL circuit and in Kenya where he’s beaten Kiprop three straight years at the Kenyan Trials.

Also in the field is the world’s leading miler so far in 2014, Aman Wote of Ethiopia. Wote got the silver at World Indoors this year and then made a mockery of the Drake Relays mile, which included 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis, a few weeks ago when Wote ran a world leading 3:53.39.

The field also includes the third and placers from last summer’s world championships in Johan Cronje of South Africa and Nixon Chepseba of Kenya.

Update: We failed to initially realize that the field also includes world indoor champ Ayanleh Souleiman. The 21-year old is a BIG TIME talent just like Kiprop.

PRs at age 21:
Asbel Kiprop – 1:43.17/3:31.20
Ayanleh Souleiman – 1:43.63/3:30.31

Taoufik Makhloufi was way better tha everyone at London 2012

Taoufik Makhloufi was way better than everyone at London 2012

Quick Take #1: Don’t misunderstand us. We’re not saying that Makhloufi was or is on drugs. A number of times since the Beijing games when people have come up to us and said something along the lines of, “Hey you guys are the experts. Makhloufi was so dominant in 2012, he had to be on drugs, right?” we’ve responded calmly with a response along the lines of, “Not necessarily. Yes, watching it live, we’ll admit his dominance shocked us using the ‘eye test’. But the guy had run 3:32 in 2010 and the fact of the matter is we’d expect the Olympic champion to beat Leo Manzano by three quarters of a second (Makhloufi won by .71). It must be remembered that Kiprop was hurt in London and many people like himself and Nick Willis were totally awful in that race.”

Quick Take #2: Track and field fans, we know you are used to seeing stars avoid each other time and time again. As a result, please enjoy taking a look at the field below as it’s stellar. No one is ducking anyone here:

AL GARNI Mohamed 01.07.1992 QAT 03:34.61 3:35.88 World Jr. bronze medal in 2010
BIRGEN Bethwell 06.08.1988 KEN 03:30.77 3:30.77 8th at World Indoors this year
CHEBOI Collins 25.09.1987 KEN 03:31.53 3:31.53 2011 All-Africa Games silver
CHEPSEBA Nixon Kiplimo 12.12.1990 KEN 03:29.77 3:33.15 4th at 2013 Worlds
CRONJE Johan 13.04.1982 RSA 03:31.93 3:31.93 2013 Worlds bronze medalist, S. African record holder
DRIOUCH Hamza 16.11.1994 QAT 03:33.69 3:39.13 2012 World Jr. champion
GEBREMEDHIN Mekonnen 11.10.1988 ETH 03:31.45 3:32.43 Bronze medal at 2012 World Indoors
KIPLAGAT Silas 20.08.1989 KEN 03:29.27 3:30.13 Silver at 2011 Worlds, 6th in 2013, 7th in London Olympics
KIPROP Asbel 30.06.1989 KEN 03:27.72 3:27.72 2008 Olympic champion, 2011 and 2013 World champion
MAGUT James Kiplagat 20.07.1990 KEN 03:33.31 3:35.2h (alt.) 2012 African Champs bronze
MAIYO Hillary Kipkorir 02.10.1993 KEN 03:35.43 3:40.26 2011 African Jr. champion
MAKHLOUFI Taoufik 29.04.1988 ALG 03:30.80 3:36.30 2012 Olympic champion
ÖZBILEN Ilham Tanui 05.03.1990 TUR 03:31.30 3:31.30 Silver at 2012 World Indoors, NR holder
ROTICH Andrew Kiptoo 24.12.1987 KEN 03:43.43 Pacer in all 2013 races Pacer?
SEUREI Benson 27.03.1988 BRN 03:31.61 3:33.04 Formerly Kenyan
SOULEIMAN Ayanleh 03.12.1992 DJI 03:30.31 3:31.64 2014 World Indoor champ, bronze in 800 at 2013 Worlds
TESFAYE Homiyu 23.06.1993 GER 03:34.18 3:34.18 5th at 2013 Worlds, 7th at 2014 World Indoors, former Ethiopian
WOTE Aman 18.04.1984 ETH 03:32.65 3:32.65 Silver at 2014 World Indoors, 3:53.39 WL mile at Drake