RRW: Convincing Semi-Final Wins for Both Rudisha and Dibaba

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BEIJING (23-Aug) — Gold medal favorites David Rudisha of Kenya and Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia easily won their semi-finals here tonight on the second day of the 15th IAAF World Championships in Athletics at National Stadium.

Running in the second of three 800m heats, Rudisha ignored the fast times from the first heat, leading his race through 400-meters in a pedestrian 54.04.  By running so slowly, he was sending a signal to his rivals that he would have no trouble finishing in the top-two to gain one of the automatic qualifying spots.  Rounding the final bend in the lead, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder looked up at one of the big video monitors in the stadium twice to check his position before scooting away to win in an energy-saving 1:47.70.

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Rudisha, 26, missed the last world championships due to a knee injury.  He also had an injury scare this season when he pulled up lame within the first 200-meters of a 600m race in Ostrava, but later found out that he wasn’t seriously hurt.  He has raced conservatively this year, allowing himself time to come into form for these championships.

“I thought maybe I would never compete in such a big competition when I got this injury which was really career-threatening,” he told a small group of reporters under National Stadium tonight.  “I’m glad I’m back and being able to race on world stage, and looking forward to the final.”

Poland’s Adam Kszczot, last summer’s European champion, led nearly every step of that fast first heat in 1:44.97.  But down the homestretch, Alfred Kipketer of Kenya, Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France, and Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia nearly ran him down in what became a blanket finish.

“It was easy to win this,” Kszczot said confidently in English.  “Only bad thing I did was I was too loose in last 40 meters.  I saw the gap in the screen of the stadium, and I wasn’t focused on last meters.”

Aman, the reigning world champion, crossed the line fourth and would have advanced on time, but he was disqualified for obstruction.

In the third heat, this year’s breakout star, Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina, kicked from third to first in the homestretch to record the fastest time of the night: 1:44.84.

“I don’t have a lot of experience in big competitions,” said Tuka who lowered his personal best by a massive four seconds over the last year.  “I feel good in the last 100 when I finished.”

Also advancing with medal aspirations were Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich and Alfred Kipketer, and Bosse.  Americans Clayton Murphy and Erik Sowinski, both competing in their first world outdoor championships, failed to advance.

In the women’s 1500m semi-finals, Dibaba sprinted to victory in the second of three heats in 4:06.74 off of a relatively slow early pace, narrowly defeating Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon.  Jenny Simpson, the 2011 world champion, was also in that heat and finished a distant fifth to clinch the last automatic qualifying position.  She later said that she wasn’t in any trouble, but was simply trying to qualify without wasting energy she would need for the final.

“I knew when Dibaba went, people were going to go,” she told Race Results Weekly.  “And I thought, don’t get caught up in her race.  Top five advance; just be top five.”  She added: “I think I have a special last 50 and I just didn’t need to use it tonight.”

Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan came from the back of the field to win the first heat in 4:15.38 over Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum, also with a big sprint finish.  Like Simpson, her American teammate Shannon Rowbury also ran strategically, swinging wide on the final bend, staying out of trouble, and getting the fifth automatic qualifying spot.

“I was near the front but then (Sofia) Ennaoui (of Poland) got in front of me and just kind of got stuck behind a wall of people,” Rowbury told Race Results Weekly.  “So, the last 300 meters on the backstretch I had to go really wide to try to kick clear.”  She added: “I knew it was just safe to stay wide.”

Other key athletes to advance to Tuesday’s final were Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi, the reigning world champion, and  Britain’s Laura Muir, who ran a very fast 3:58.66 earlier this season.  Britain’s Laura Weightman failed to start because team doctors determined that she had suffered a concussion in the hard fall she took in the preliminary round.

Distance action continues here at National Stadium tomorrow with the qualifying round of the women’s 3000m steeplechase, the men’s steeplechase final, and the women’s 10,000m.