The Sensational Asbel Kiprop Reigns Supreme and Wins Fourth Global Title

51-Second Last Lap Is Too Much For Historically Deep Field To Handle as Kiprop Finally Enjoys His Golden Moment in Beijing

August 30, 2015

BEIJING — Seven years ago at the Bird’s Nest, during the 2008 Olympics, Asbel Kiprop became a global champion for the first time in the men’s 1500 meters. Just 19 years of age, it was a breakthrough performance for the Kenyan, who was the youngest-ever man to win the Olympic 1500 title.

Screenshot (505) Asbel Kiprop crossed the line first this time

But Kiprop was robbed of the sweetest moments of the victory. He didn’t get to cross the finish line first. He didn’t get to stand on top of the podium. And the medal he received was silver, not gold.

Kiprop was the victim of grand larceny, the gold medal stolen away by drug cheat Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain. Fifteen months after the Games, Ramzi was stripped of his win after testing positive for CERA, an advanced form of EPO. Kiprop had to wait another two years to finally receive the medal he earned in Beijing.

Tonight, at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, he had to wait two hours. On the same track on which Ramzi robbed him in 2008, Kiprop proved once again that he is the greatest 1500-meter runner in the world, running 3:34.40 to take gold and win his third straight world title.

Men’s 1500 running has never been deeper, and tonight’s final included an astounding seven men with personal bests under 3:30. Yet Kiprop did what he has done so many times in his career – make exceptional athletes look ordinary, taking the lead with 50 meters to go and gliding to the win despite being in a horrible position a mere 200 meters earlier.

Kiprop’s run was greatness personified, his actions sending a statement to the rest of the world that, at his best, he is utterly untouchable in a championship race. When he moved by leader Taoufik Makhloufi halfway down the home stretch, the 2012 Olympic champion was powerless to respond, Kiprop’s long limbs moving just as fast as the Algerian’s while covering almost twice the ground.

With 300 meters to go, Makhloufi made a move that tore up the pack, leaving world championship medallists and sub-3:30 guys gasping for air. It was nearly the same move that gave him a decisive Olympic victory in 2012, but in that race Kiprop was injured and had to be encouraged by the Kenyan federation to even show up.Tonight, at full strength, Kiprop blew by Makhloufi in the end as if he were nothing — despite the fact that there were eight men and 10 meters between Makhloufi and Kiprop when Makhloufi began his kick. Makhloufi was simply another piece of wreckage blown away by the force of nature that is Asbel Kiprop.

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Behind the champion, there was an incredibly battle going on for the medals as a mere .18 of a second separated second and fifth place. Another Kenyan, 22-year-old Elijah Manangoi, overcame a massive deficit on the home stretch and vaulted from fifth to second in the final 20 meters to take silver in 3:34.63, while Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider got another bronze medal to pair with the one he earned at the 2012 Olympics. Makhloufhi’s big move for golden glory ended up costing himself a medal as he agonizingly faded to fourth in 3:34.76, just ahead 2011 silver medallist Silas Kiplagat (3:34.81), who was just inches away from silver but only fifth in the official results.

The USA, which sent three men to the final for the first time since 2009, came up empty-handed in this event after claiming medals in the past four global championships. Defending silver medalist Matthew Centrowitz was eighth despite being in a perfect position throughout and having the lead at the bell. Leo Manzano and Robby Andrews followed behind in 10th and 11th.

The Race

Manangoi and Ethiopia’s Aman Wote (DNF) went out to the front early in this one as Kiprop was content to run from the very back of the field behind Andrews and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis (first non-African, sixth 3:34.81). Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot (7th, 3:36.05) moved by Manangoi and Wote into first just after the 400-meter mark (59.20) with Centrowitz sitting behind Manangoi on the inside. The order was the same a lap later (1:58.69) when Centrowitz moved up to the outside shoulder of Cheruiyot on the backstretch. Further back, Kiprop had moved up to 10th place behind Willis, very much in contention but not in a great position to kick from with in a tactical race with 600 to go.

All 12 men bunched together on the homestretch, bracing themselves for the final kick. At the bell (2:42.17), Manangoi and Centrowitz, directly to his right, crossed together, the latter perfectly positioned to strike for his third straight World Championship medal. Iguider ran slightly outside and behind Centrowitz with Kenya’s 3:27 man Silas Kiplagat on the rail behind Manangoi.

The race really broke apart with 300 to go as Makhloufi made the same move he did in the Olympic final three years ago, opening up a lead of two or three meters with entering the final turn. The competition had improved since that night in London, however, and by 100 to go, Iguider was only a stride behind Makhloufi with Kiplagat a stride and a half behind Iguider. Kiprop was there too, having gone out into lane three on the backstretch to move from 10th to fourth with 150 to go. With room to run in the outside of lane two, Kiprop hit top gear and that was that. He took the lead with 50 to go and despite the best efforts of Makhloufi, Iguider and Kiplagat, none could claw back so much as an inch until Kiprop launched into his celebration, winning with a 51-second last lap.

There was one man gaining on Kiprop, however — his countryman Manangoi, who after starting the home stretch in fifth, five meters back of Kiplagat, turned on the jets to blow by Kiplagat, Makhloufi, and a diving Iguider to secure the silver medal. Iguider’s dive, the result of him breaking form in the final stages of the race, was enough for bronze.

Results and analysis below.

1 687 Asbel KIPROP KEN 3:34.40
2 696 Elijah Motonei MANANGOI KEN 3:34.63
3 738 Abdalaati IGUIDER MAR 3:34.67
4 159 Taoufik MAKHLOUFI ALG 3:34.76
5 686 Silas KIPLAGAT KEN 3:34.81
6 783 Nicholas WILLIS NZL 3:35.46
7 681 Timothy CHERUIYOT KEN 3:36.05
8 1002 Matthew CENTROWITZ USA 3:36.13
9 531 Charlie GRICE GBR 3:36.21
10 1042 Leonel MANZANO USA 3:37.26
11 991 Robby ANDREWS USA 3:38.29
477 Aman WOTE ETH ETH DNFSplits
400m 59.20 WOTE
800m 1:58.69 CHERUIYOT
1200m 2:55.68 MANANGOI

Quick Take #1: Asbel Kiprop has to be considered the #2 1500 runner in history (for now)

Sometimes, a runner is so much better than everyone else that it’s impossible to beat them barring a major tactical blunder. That was the case with Mo Farah and Genzebe Dibaba earlier in these championships and that was the case tonight with Kiprop. Kiprop ran far from a perfect race, but once he got close to the lead, his victory became inevitable. You can analyze tactics all you want, but when someone has a talent advantage as big as Kiprop’s, the only way to beat them (when healthy) is to pray he makes a big mistake. Kiprop did that in 2009 and got beat, but he hasn’t done it at Worlds since and the result is three gold medals.

So where does Kiprop stack up historically? Counting the Olympics, he has now won 4 global 1500 titles (3 Words, 1 Olympics). The record for most World/Olympic titles ever is held by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj. The world record holder won 5, as he won 4 straight World titles between 1997-2003 and won the Olympic title in 2004.

If Kiprop can win the Olympics in 2016, he will match El Guerrouj in number of overall global 1500 titles but surpass him in Olympic titles. He’ll also join Seb Coe as the only humans to have ever won two Olympic 1500 titles.

But what makes Kiprop’s run so impressive is the increased quality of competition he’s facing as compared to El Guerrouj and Coe.

We took a look at the all-time lists for the men’s 1500 on and determined the number of men who have run broken 3:30 between the first and last world titles for Coe, El G and Kiprop.

# of competitors that have run sub-3:30 between their first and last world title
Seb Coe – 0
Hicham El Guerrouj – 8
Asbel Kiprop -14 (and counting)

Seb Coe’s Sub-3:30 Competition


Hicham El Guerrouj’s Sub-3:30 Competition
1     3:26.34    Bernard Lagat                 KEN
2     3:28.12    Noah Ngeny                    KEN
3     3:28.95    Fermin Cacho                  ESP
4     3:28.98    Mehdi Baala                    FRA
5     3:29.18    Vénuste Niyongabo          BDI
6     3:29.29    William Chirchir               KEN
7     3:29.46    Daniel Komen                   KEN
8     3:29.51    Ali Saïdi-Sief                    ALG       

Asbel Kiprop’s Sub-3:30 Competition (so far)
1     3:27.64    Silas Kiplagat                 KEN
2     3:28.79    Abdelati Iguider               MAR
3     3:28.81    Mohamed Farah              GBR
4     3:28.81    Ronald Kwemoi               KEN
5     3:29.02    Daniel Kipchirchir Komen  KEN        
6     3:29.14    Rashid Ramzi                  BRN  
7     3:29.47    Augustine Choge              KEN
8     3:29.50    Caleb Ndiku                     KEN    
9    3:29.58    Ayanleh Souleiman         DJI        
10    3:29.66    Nick Willis                     NZL         
11    3:29.67    Elijah Manangoi              KEN
12    3:29.77    Nixon Chepseba             KEN
13    3:29.91    Laban Rotich                  KEN    
14    3:29.91    Aman Wote                    ETH    

El Guerrouj, who holds the WR in the mile and 1500 in addition to his 1500 titles, is inarguably the best ever at 1500. But that may not be the case much longer. If Kiprop can win the Olympic title again and break one of El G’s world records, they’d have to be on equal footing (you could argue Kiprop as being slightly ahead). If Kiprop wins gold at next year’s Olympics and the 2017 Worlds — or if he wins one of them and breaks both of El G’s world records — he has to be considered the GOAT.

Quick Take #2: Get a goat ready for silver medalist Elijah Manangoi

Manangoi, like 800 champ David Rudisha, hails from the Maasai tribe in Kenya. It is a Maasai tradition to slaughter cattle on special occasions and when asked how he would celebrate his medal, Manangoi responded: “I’m a Maasai so I’m going to cut the goat and drink the blood.”

Rudisha was evidently quite excited by Manangoi’s performance, calling Manangoi’s interview the “best interview ever” as he quoted’s tweet.

2007 World 1500 champ Bernard Lagat watched the race with Rudisha and liked Manangoi’s quote as well.

Regardless of what you think of Manangoi’s post-race plans, there’s no denying his talent. Two years ago, he was a 400 runner who had never raced outside of Kenya. He’s only broken 3:34 once in his life — though that was a 3:29.67 in Monaco this year. And he’s still just 22 years old. Now he’s the World Championships silver medalist, beating everyone except Kiprop in a loaded field. His future is extremely bright — and his present’s not bad either.

Quick Take #3: Back to the drawing board for Silas Kiplagat

Kiplagat entered with the second-fastest PB but once again found himself out of the medals (he’s only medalled once at Worlds, in 2011), saying he was “sad” not not have finished in the top three. Kiplagat said that he did what he wanted to do but that he didn’t lean properly at the end.

We disagree about the lean — the other guys simply closed better at the end — but there wasn’t much wrong with Kiplagat’s tactics or race. He was in it with 100 to go and just couldn’t close as well as the top four and ended up just .18 from silver.

Quick Take #4: Matthew Centrowitz knows how good this field was / The Americans may not have medalled tonight, but this was not a failure

This wasn’t a case of the Americans choking. On paper, they were slower than the majority of the field, and the top guys all happened to run great tonight. Just getting three guys into a final of this quality was an achievement, so Centrowitz, Manzano and Andrews have nothing to be ashamed of.

Consider this, six of the top 25 fastest guys in history were in this field, including half of the top eight. And in the end, their historic speed won out as the men with the six fastest PRs (all set their PRs in Monaco this year save Kiplagat) took the top six places tonight.

Centrowitz, who had the lead at the bell and ended up only eighth, knew how good his competition was and said that he couldn’t have done anything more on this night.

“This was a quality field, one of the best field’s that I’ve raced in the last couple global championships,” Centrowitz said. “With 300 to go, I was all-out at that point [and couldn’t] respond to Makhloufi’s push…I knew I had to respond, and I couldn’t and that was the best I could do today.”

Centrowitz gave himself an A-/B+ on the year, noting that he PR’d at both 800 and 1500 and regained his U.S. title (in dominant fashion), though he obviously wanted to finish higher tonight.

“It wasn’t like I had a poor championship,” Centrowitz said. “It was a tough three rounds. Every round was a dogfight. I’m exhausted right now.”

Manzano and Andrews entered in similar situations — both are big kickers but would have needed the top guys to struggle in order to have a shot at a medal tonight. Obviously that didn’t happen, and neither was too upset despite finishing 10th (Manzano) and 11th (Andrews).

Andrews, who is still gaining experience as a 1500 runner, said the rounds took a lot out of him and thinks with time he’ll feel stronger by the time the final rolls around.

Leo Manzano Interview

Quick Take #5: Nick Willis: “There wasn’t anything else I could have done tactically”

Willis felt he ran a strong race tactically but that his legs simply didn’t feel as good as they did in the semis (perhaps the effect of running three rounds in four days?). Willis said he was actually surprised to finish sixth considering how bad he felt at 800 meters.

Timothy Cheruiyot interview

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The last 500 in pictures (click for a larger image).

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