Women’s 1500 Semi-Final: Genzebe Dibaba Puts On A Show As Shannon Rowbury And Jenny Simpson Advance And Brenda Martinez Falters

by LetsRun.com
August 14, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO – There were no big surprises in the women’s 1,500m semifinals tonight as all the medal favorites advanced and only one runner from the 2016 descending order list top 10 failed to make the final. World record holder Genzebe Dibaba sent a message to the rest of the women in the field, blitzing the last lap in 57 seconds to win the second heat while the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan and Great Britain’s Laura Muir showed they will be contenders by following her. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon and Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum also looked good in finishing 1-2 in the first heat.

On the American front, Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury took different approaches as they both advanced with some room to spare. Simpson lead the second heat for the first 1200m before finishing fourth behind the strong close of Dibaba, Hassan and Muir while Rowbury was in eighth with one lap to go in the first heat, but closed well to finish third. It was not Brenda Martinez’s night, however, as she was a distant last place in heat #1.

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Here’s how the top 10 seeds fared today.

2016’s Fastest 1500 Performers (among women entered):

1 3:56.41 Faith Kipyegon KEN – Won heat #1.
2 3:57.49 Laura Muir GBR – 3rd in heat #2.
3 3:58.10 Dawit Seyaum ETH – 2nd in heat #1.
4 3:59.83 Genzebe Dibaba ETH – Won heat #2 with a 57 last lap.
5 4:00.08 Besu Sado ETH – 4th in heat #2, fading a bit in the final meters.
6 4:00.87 Sifan Hassan NED – Closed just as fast as Dibaba to finish 2nd in heat #2.
7 4:01.57 Jenny Simpson USA – Lead first 1200m to finish 4th in heat #2.
8 4:01.78 Linden Hall AUS – 8th in heat #1.
9 4:02.62 Meraf Bahta SWE – 5th in heat #2 to grab the last auto spot.
10 4:02.66 Laura Weightman GBR – Final auto qualifier out of heat #1.

Heat 1: Faith Kipyegon Shows Her Strength As Shannon Rowbury Advances And Brenda Martinez’s 2016 Olympics End Early

After a dawdling first 200 meters, Great Britain’s Laura Weightman jumped to the front and lead the field through a first 400 split of 69.88. Faith Kipyegon sat near the front on the outside while Shannon Rowbury and Brenda Martinez were middle of the pack. Coming up on two laps to go, Kipyegon moved onto Weightman’s shoulder and then past her, going through the second lap in 65.77 (2:15.75 for 800). The Ethiopians Dawit Seyaum and Besu Sado moved up following Kipyegon as Rowbury and Martinez remained further back in the pack.

At the start of the final lap Kipyegon led Weightman, Sado and Seyaum as Rowbury and Martinez looked like they could be in trouble sitting farther back and boxed in. Kipyegon continued to lead, splitting the third 400 in 63.39 (3:19.03 1200m). Over the final 300, she held off a challenge from Seyaum to win the heat in 4:03.95 to Seyaum’s 4:04.23 (about a 60-second final 400 for Kipyegon). Rowbury was in a terrible spot at the start of the last lap, but went way wide almost into lane three to go around people and moved up well to go all the way from eighth to third in 4:04.46. Sado faded in the final meters, but held on to 4th (4:05.19) as Weightman just barely beat the diving finish of Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui to grab the last auto spot. After a crazy burst of speed the final 100m, Ennaoui was rewarded with one of the time qualifiers (4:05.29) as was Morocco’s Rababe Arafi (4:05.60). Brenda Martinez faded badly over the final lap, finishing last in 4:10.41.

1 950 Faith Chepngetich KIPYEGON KEN 4:03.95 Q
2 648 Dawit SEYAUM ETH 4:04.23 Q
3 1370 Shannon ROWBURY USA 4:04.46 Q SB
4 647 Besu SADO ETH 4:05.19 Q
5 728 Laura WEIGHTMAN GBR 4:05.28 Q
6 1095 Sofia ENNAOUI POL 4:05.29 q
7 993 Rababe ARAFI MAR 4:05.60 q
8 324 Linden HALL AUS 4:05.81
9 322 Zoe BUCKMAN AUS 4:06.95
10 757 Konstanze KLOSTERHALFEN GER 4:07.26
11 844 Ciara MAGEEAN IRL 4:08.07
12 1355 Brenda MARTINEZ USA 4:10.41

Quick Thought #1: Faith Kipyegon Remains A Threat To Genzebe Dibaba

Coming into the Rio Games, we thought the 1500 title would come down to either Dibaba or Kipyegon depending on how far from her best Dibaba was. While she didn’t have the super fast close Dibaba did, Kipyegon looked very smooth winning this heat and remains a medal favorite going into the final.

QT #2: Shannon Rowbury Didn’t Run a Great Race Tactically, But With Room for Improvement in the Final, She Has an Outside Shot at a Medal

Rowbury won’t be favored for a medal in her third Olympic final as Kipyegon has been on fire this year and Dibaba, Hassan and Muir all looked great in heat 2. But Rowbury has the most experience of anyone in the field (this will be her fifth global 1500 final) and her closing speed has been on point recently. If she runs smart, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see the 31-year-old Rowbury sneak a medal to go with the bronze she earned at Worlds back in 2009.

With five women going through, Rowbury had some margin for error tonight, and even though she was in poor position at the bell and ran a lot of extra distance, she still felt confident in her ability to close and grab an auto spot, which was all that mattered to her tonight.

“Ideally you want to run as least distance as possible, but even more so you want to stay on your feet,” Rowbury said. “So that was the priority, and just making sure I was in a good position to finish well.”

Despite the extra distance, Rowbury managed a season’s best of 4:04.46 and has a lot of room to improve on that in Tuesday night’s final.

QT 2.1 Shannon Rowbury: “I think I have as much a shot to be on the medal podium or come home with the gold as anyone”

When asked specifically of her medal chances, Rowbury liked her own. She noted she has the 3rd best Pr in the field and as much experience as anyone. She then said, “I think I have as much a shot to be on the medal podium or come home with the gold as anyone.” When Rowbury said this she was 10 feet from world record holder Genzebe Dibaba who has run 3:50.07. We then asked how Rowbury wraps her head around the concept of beating someone like Dibaba who has run so much fater than Rowbury. Rowbury said, “(In) the Olympics, the final, who knows what it could be… I pray nobody falls, but we have to stay on our feet. I can’t really control how she races but I know my preparation has been excellent so I’m excited (for the final).”

QT #3: Ethiopia Has Three Women In The Final, But Only Two Medal Contenders

With Dibaba winning heat #2 and Seyaum and Sado qualifying out of this heat, Ethiopia managed to get all three of its women’s 1500 competitors to Tuesday’s final. Watching this heat tonight, however, we only expect Seyaum and Dibaba and not Sado to be a factor in Tuesday’s race as Sado was moving backwards in the final 100m while Seyaum was trying to challenge Kipyegon. Sado also didn’t look good in the first round after which we pointed out that Ethiopia should have selected Gudaf Tsegay, who beat Sado in the 1500 in Stockholm instead of Sado.

QT #4: Brenda Martinez Was at a Loss for Words to Explain What Happened

For the second year in a row, Martinez went out in a global championship semifinal in disappointing fashion. Martinez has nothing to be ashamed of this year — even getting to Rio was a massive accomplishment considering she had been training for the 800 this year and suffered a heartbreaking fall in that event at the Olympic Trials. But obviously once she arrived at her first — and perhaps only — Olympics (she turns 29 next month), she wanted to do well. For Martinez, that meant making the final at the very least.

Martinez was towards the back at the bell, and when it came time to kick, she had nothing in reserve and wound up last in her heat. One could say that training to run the 800 this year left Martinez unprepared for two hard 1500’s in two days, but that’s not a great argument. She was 5th in the 1500 at World Indoors and that required races on consecutive days. There’s really no simple answer for Martinez’ performance tonight.

“I honestly don’t even know what happened the last lap,” Martinez said.  “I’m so disappointed. I felt confident that I could kick with these girls…I’m gonna talk to the coaches. It’s not going to be good. Not looking forward to that talk.”

QT #5 Linden Hall’s Amazing 2016 Comes to an End

Hall, the former Florida State runner, started the year with a 4:10.41 pr and she ended her 2016 season by being the first person to miss the final, but with a 4:01.78 pr. She was disappointed to come so close to the final, but happy with how the season went as a whole. “Obviously, it’s been an amazing season and I can’t really complaint too much where it’s taken me but to be so close it kind of hurts a little bit,” she said.

As for tonight’s race, she said, “The first 100m the race plan went out the door” as she found herself boxed in on the inside. She struggled throughout to get out of the box without dropping back and she felt that caused her to not make the final. Now she goes back to Australia where she’s studying for a master’s in dietetics and is four weeks behind the new semester in Melbourne.

Heat 2: Genzebe Dibaba Blitzes The Final Lap While Sifan Hassan, Laura Muir And Jenny Simpson Follow In Her Wake

After some light elbowing to make some space for herself, Jenny Simpson went straight to the lead in heat two. Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes sat on her in second as GB’s Laura Muir and Genzebe Dibaba were in the pack and Sifan Hassan in second to last. Simpson took the field through a steady first two laps, hitting the 400m in 68.22 and splitting 68.85 (2:17.11 first 800m) for the second as Muir moved to her shoulder and Dibaba and Hassan sat at the back of the pack.

Coming up on one to go, Simpson still lead Muir with Sifuentes in third, but as they hit the bell Dibaba made a hard move to the front and Hassan followed. The two were rocketing away from the field with only Muir following and then a gap to Simpson in fourth. Dibaba hit the third 400 split in 63.19 (3:19.30 for 1200m) and continued kicking to win the heat in 4:03.06 with a 57 last lap. Hassan stayed close throughout the final lap, finishing second in 4:03.62 as Muir was third (4:04.16) and Simpson closed the gap a bit, finishing fourth in 4:05.07. Sweden’s Meraf Bahta nabbed the last qualifying spot in 5th with Bernard Lagat’s sister Violah Lagat and Sifuentes failing to advance in 6th and 7th. Poland’s Angelika Chichocka, who was running well before the Games as she beat Hassan to win European Champs and ran a world-leading 1000m on July 28 (2:34.84), was terrible here finishing last in 4:17.83.

1 643 Genzebe DIBABA ETH 4:03.06 Q
2 1032 Sifan HASSAN NED 4:03.62 Q
3 710 Laura MUIR GBR 4:04.16 Q
4 1372 Jennifer SIMPSON USA 4:05.07 Q
5 1222 Meraf BAHTA SWE 4:06.41 Q
6 951 Violah Cheptoo LAGAT KEN 4:06.83
7 491 Nicole SIFUENTES CAN 4:08.53
8 992 Malika AKKAOUI MAR 4:08.55
9 783 Diana SUJEW GER 4:10.15
10 1119 Danuta URBANIK POL 4:11.34
11 318 Jenny BLUNDELL AUS 4:13.25
12 1093 Angelika CICHOCKA POL 4:17.83

Quick Thought #1: Dibaba Closes Unnecessarily Hard, To What End We Don’t Know

Any pre-Olympic questions surrounding Genzebe Dibaba’s fitness have been answered in the first two rounds of the women’s 1500 in Rio. In the first round, Dibaba gapped the field to easily win her heat while today she was even more impressive throwing down a super fast final 400m. Why she felt the need to close so hard, we really don’t know. The top five advanced automatically and she easily could have sat in second and kicked away for the heat win in the final 150m or even gone to the front and ramped it down gradually over the last lap. But at that bell, she took off like it was a gold medal race and her life depended on crossing that line first. With two days rest until the final, we don’t expect that a fast last 400 will be hurting her. Maybe given how lightly raced she is this year, she just wanted to test her speed or blow out the pipes a bit, but kicking down in 57 to dominate a semi-final would normally be considered a little superfluous.

QTt #2: Sifan Hassan’s Tactics Remain Questionable, But She’s Got The Speed To Medal

While almost always a factor in major races, Hassan has had a tendency to make some poor tactical decisions which can sometimes cost her. Tonight she was still way back with 500m to go and had to go wide and make a surge to follow Dibaba’s move as Dibaba had moved up gradually over the penultimate lap before bursting away at the bell. It worked fine for Hassan here, but if she wants a chance to win in the final, she can’t find herself in near dead last with 500m to go while big kickers like Dibaba and Kipyegon are sitting at the front.

QT #3: Jenny Simpson on Genzebe Dibaba: “If a tree bears sour fruit, then the fruit around it are likely infected…If WADA’s on the case, they’ll find what they need to find, I hope.”

After controlling the first few laps from the front, Simpson was gapped significantly on the final lap but that didn’t really concern her as she knew the top five women would qualify automatically.

“I think that the best four on paper were in this race tonight,” Simpson said. “When Dibaba and Hassan and Laura went by me, I thought, ‘Those people are going to be in the top five and if they’re ahead of me or behind me, I don’t have to race them tonight; I’m going to race them in two days.’ It was a very thoughtful process for me to say, let them race each other, let them get some of that out of their system and hopefully I’ll have something to match that in two days.”

When asked about her medal potential on Tuesday, Simpson reflected back on her world title in 2011. Entering the meet, little was expected of Simpson, and she joked with her coach at the time, Juli Benson,  on the bus ride to the final that, statistically, in a 12-person final she had a one in four chance to medal. Of course, she didn’t just medal. After a fall took out several people, she wound up on the top of the podium. Simpson said she’s looking to recapture some of that “younger, more innocent personality” for the final.

We also asked Simpson about Dibaba, who looked incredible once again tonight in closing her final lap in 57 seconds, and Dibaba’s association with coach Jama Aden, whose hotel room was raided as part of a drug investigation in June and who is the subject of a multi-year IAAF investigation.

“I think that you know a tree by the fruit that it bears,” Simpson said. “If a tree bears sour fruit, then the fruit around it are likely infected…If WADA’s on the case, they’ll find what they need to find, I hope.”


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