2016 World Indoors M 1500 Preview: Centro Goes For Gold on Home Turf Against Ayanleh Souleiman, Nick Willis and (Possibly) Abdalaati Iguider
Centrowitz is undefeated in 2016 and ran 3:50.63 at Millrose, but can he take down rivals Ayanleh Souleiman (fresh off a 1k WR) and World Championship bronze medalist Abdalaati Iguider?
March 16, 2016
PORTLAND, Ore. — For the first time in 29 years, the U.S. will play host to the IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships. Portland, Ore., will be the site as the world’s top athletes head to the Pacific Northwest for the four-day meet which begins on Thursday. LetsRun.com is in Portland all week and we’ll have tons of on-site coverage for you to digest. We’ll kick things off by previewing the mid-d/distance events — here’s a look at the men’s 1500. You can find all of our Worlds coverage in our special Worlds section here.
What: 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships
When: March 17-20, 2016
Where: Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon
Prize Money: A total of US$2,464,000 is on offer from the IAAF. There is also a US$50,000 bonus for any athlete setting a world record during the four-day championships.
Individual events (total US$ 2,288,000)
Relays per team (total US$176,000)
Men’s 1500 (prelims Friday, 10:00 p.m. ET; final Sunday 5:05 p.m. ET)
|Abdalaati Iguider||Morocco||3:28.79||3:34.94||Won world indoors in 2012. Won 1500 in Glasgow this year and 3k in Stockholm. Bronze at worlds last year. Also entered in 3k.|
|Matthew Centrowitz||USA||3:30.40||3:35.91||With the way he’s running this year, has the ability to win any style of race|
|Nick Willis||New Zealand||3:29.66||3:36.12||Has to beat Centro if he wants gold|
|Ayanleh Souleiman||Djibouti||3:29.58||3:36.30||Won world indoors in 2014. Set 1000 WR earlier this year, beaten by Iguider in Glasgow|
|Bethwell Birgen||Kenya||3:30.77||3:37.55||3rd in Glasgow to Souleiman and Iguider, 2nd to Willis in Boston|
|Vincent Kibet||Kenya||3:31.96||3:37.55||Hasn’t finished better than 3rd in a race this winter|
|Dawit Wolde||Ethiopia||3:33.82||3:37.86||Only a 3:33 guy outdoors hasn’t lost a 1500/mile this winter|
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:34.83||3:37.88||Former NCAA champ|
|Aman Wote||Ethiopia||3:29.91||3:38.04||Silver medallist at 2014 indoors. Has a win in France and Spain this winter|
|Robby Andrews||USA||3:34.78||3:38.09||He almost beat Centro at USAs. Got to make the final here first.|
|Manuel Olmedo||Spain||3:34.44||3:38.25||Won Spanish champs|
|Jakub Holusa||Czech Republic||3:34.26||3:39.99||’15 Euro Indoor champ; ’12 World Indoor silver at 800|
|Charlie Grice||Great Britain||3:35.29||3:46.50||British indoor/outdoor champ was 9th at Worlds last year|
The Time Is Now For Matthew Centrowitz
There’s good news and bad news if you’re a Matthew Centrowitz fan.
The good? Centro’s 2016 season couldn’t have gone any better if he wrote the script himself. He’s won all five of his races, highlighted by a 3:50.63 mile to defend his Millrose title that ranks him #4 all-time over the distance indoors. He’s also stronger than ever, demonstrated in part by his 7:40.74 3000 pb on February 5. Last week, he earned his second consecutive U.S. indoor crown. The icing on the cake? The World Championships will take place on his de facto home track in his training base of Portland.
The bad? To win gold, Centrowitz will have to overcome two men who have thus far dominated Centro in his career, Ayanleh Souleiman and Abdalaati Iguider. Both Souleiman (defending champion, 3:47 mile pb) and Iguider (2012 champion, 3:28.79 1500 pb) have indoor and outdoor World Championship medals (Iguider has medalled in this event at each of the last three championships) and have big advantages head-to-head against Centro. Iguider is 10-5 all-time and has won seven of their last eight meetings; Souleiman is 13-1.
Both Souleiman and Iguider are fit. Souleiman opened his season by breaking the 1k world record in Stockholm on February 17 (2:14.20). In his next race, three days later in Glasgow, he ran 3:36.30 for 1500, beating everyone in the field except for Iguider (3:34.94). In Iguider’s only other race this year, he ran 7:39.04 for 3000 in Stockholm, holding off Ethiopian stud Yomif Kejelcha in a thrilling last-lap duel (26.88 final 200).
The fact that Centro barely held off Robby Andrews at USAs — a fine runner, but not one who has shown himself to be on the level of Souleiman or Iguider — is also somewhat alarming. It didn’t concern Centrowitz, however, who chose to focus on his ability to respond to Andrews’ late move rather than the narrow margin of victory.
Souleiman and Iguider will be extremely difficult to beat, but it’s not impossible that Centrowitz takes them down. First, it’s possible that Iguider doesn’t even run this race. He’s entered in both the 1500 and the 3000 and though the 1500 is his better option (he beat Souleiman convincingly and it has historically been his best distance), it’s possible he opts for the 3000. Running both events makes zero sense (the finals are less than an hour apart), so Iguider will have to choose one. Centro is an excellent tactician and has two outdoor World Championship medals. He’s never been this fit at this point in the year, and is certainly much further along than he was two years ago when he finished seventh in this race in Istanbul. The strength gains he’s made this winter also mean that he won’t have a problem putting together two quality races in the span of 44 hours.
It’s really, really hard to win a world title, but if Centrowitz is ever going to do it, now is the time. He’s in his prime at 26 years old, in terrific form and gets to sleep in his own bed the week of the race.
Other Medal Threats — Can Robby Andrews Kick His Way On To the Podium?
Souleiman, Iguider (if he runs) and Centrowitz are the most likely medal candidates, but anything can happen in a championship 1500. Nick Willis was fourth two years ago and has been in even better form this year, winning the mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix for the third year in a row before setting a New Zealand national record of 3:51.06 (#8 all-time) in his last race at Millrose. Willis got dusted by Centrowitz in the last lap in that race, but he did beat Centro at Worlds outdoors. Discount him at your peril.
Ethiopia’s Dawit Wolde didn’t make it out of the first round at Worlds last year, but he wasn’t far behind Mo Farah and Augustine Choge in the 3k in Glasgow (7:41.69) and won his other two races this indoor season. Countryman Aman Wote is even more formidable: he was second at World Indoors in 2014 and a finalist at Worlds last year, but we don’t know much about his current form given that he’s only raced a pair of low-key 1500s (both victories) in France and Spain. Other darkhorse medal contenders include UK champ Charlie Grice (9th at Worlds last year), Boston-based Brit Chris O’Hare (his 3:52.91 for third at Millrose is his only defeat in ’16) and the Czech Republic’s Jakub Holusa, who hasn’t been in great form this year but took sixth in 2014 and won the European indoor title last year. Kenya typically has one of the best 1500 squads (they went 1-2-5 at Worlds last year) but their team here isn’t that strong — neither Bethwell Birgen nor Vincent Kibet (who has never represented Kenya internationally) have been competitive against the world’s best this season.
Of course, there is one other medal contender we haven’t mentioned: American Robby Andrews. Andrews’ career has really taken off since reuniting with college coach Jason Vigilante last year, as he won his first U.S. title (indoor 1k) last year and made the 1500 final in his first World Championship appearance. Even higher expectations were placed on Andrews in 2016, and so far he’s responded in fine fashion, running an indoor pb of 1:46.98 for 800 and an overall mile pb of 3:53.16 to take fourth at Millrose. But his most impressive performance was his runner-up finish at USAs last week, where he gave Centrowitz everything he could handle in a dramatic battle to the finish line. Andrews has made his career on waiting until the last possible moment before shifting into top gear, but because of where he was positioned entering the final lap at USAs (third, behind Blankenship and Centrowitz), Andrews had to move earlier than he would have liked to get around Blankenship before entering the final turn. As a result, Centrowitz had room to respond to Andrews when Andrews passed him in the home straight.
Tactics are a part of the game, but had Andrews timed his kick differently, it’s possible that he, not Centrowitz, would be your 2016 U.S. champion. And even though Andrews was second, not first, at USAs, he remains a medal threat — he got far closer to defeating Centrowitz than anyone else, Willis included, has this year.
Andrews has a different skill set than Centrowitz. He’s not as aerobically strong, so two races in three days hurts him, but his top-end speed is just as good, if not better than Centro’s (their 800 pbs are separated by less than a tenth of a second). And Andrews proved at USAs last year outdoors (when he closed his final 800 in 1:49.44) and this year indoors (1:50.17 final 800) that he can do more than just kick in the final 200 off a glacial pace. A sub-3:40 race might be too fast for Andrews to fully unleash his devastating kick but anything slower than that and Andrews is a major player if he’s in a good position.
LRC Prediction: 1) Iguider (if he runs it 2) Souleiman 3) Centrowitz If all three are at their best, Centrowitz probably doesn’t win but it’s rare that everyone runs to their potential in a championship final. Iguider has been great against good competition this year and his track record (2012 Olympic/2015 World bronze outdoors, three World Indoor medals) suggest he’s the man to beat, especially because he’s already defeated Souleiman this year. But Centro is a great championship racer and we think he’ll get at least a bronze. Andrews could definitely medal if it goes slow but we don’t think it will — Souleiman likes to control things from the front and his front-running strategy allowed him to go wire-to-wire for gold in this race two years ago.