August 11, 2017
LONDON — The 2017 World Championship men’s 1500 final is set and Kenya, as it has all year, leads the way with three qualifiers: 2015 gold and silver medalists Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangoi and 2017 world #2 Timothy Cheruiyot. After placing all three of its entrants in the final in Beijing two years ago, the U.S. will only have one man in Sunday’s final and it’s not Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz or U.S. champ Robby Andrews, but the unheralded Johnny Gregorek, who grabbed the final auto spot in heat two.
Andrews didn’t just fail to make the final, he failed to finish the race as he pulled up with 900 meters to go in his semi as a persistent calf injury flared up at the worst possible time. Other notable names to go home included 2015 bronze medalist Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco, 2017 Oslo Diamond League winner Jake Wightman and Kenyan champ Ronald Kwemoi, who has battled injuries of late and could only manage 9th in heat two.
Heat 1 was slow, and the two Kenyans, Manangoi and Kiprop took opposing strategies as Manangoi was in the lead at the bell while Kiprop was in the back. Both men closed very well over the final 200, however, and they wound up going 1-2 to advance comfortably. The time was not quick, however (3:40.10), setting it up for heat 2 to take the two time qualifiers (which they did).
Heat 2 went out quicker thanks to another Kenyan, Timothy Cheruiyot, and at 800 (2:00.90) they were already over three seconds up on heat 1. Cheruiyot, Marcin Lewandowski of Poland and a hard-charging Jakub Holusa (who would win the heat in 3:38.05 with a huge move on the inside) took the first three auto spots comfortably. Behind them, there was a fierce battle for the final two auto spots, with four men — Chris O’Hare of Great Britain, Fouad El Kaam of Morocco, Nick Willis of New Zealand and Gregorek — crossing in the span of .09 of a second, but the places would be irrelevant as all four would advance to the final.
Quick Take: Robby Andrews suffers calf strain
Andrews, who pulled up with 900 meters to go, said he did not step on the rail, but that his calf strain that he suffered a few weeks ago just popped on him and in the course of three steps his World Championships was over.
“It’s pretty terrible,” Andrews said of dropping out of Worlds with injury.
Andrews said in one of his last workouts before heading to England his calf got tight and he’s been working with the USATF medical staff and Dr. Josh Glass, but that maybe two races in two days was too much for him.
“I’d love to race more [this summer]. I feel really fit and it would be a shame to let it go to waste,” Andrews said. But before Andrews can race again he’ll likely be at the track on Sunday to watch Gregorek in the final. “Hey he’s having some year. It’s exciting,” Andrews said.
Quick Take: Johnny Gregorek is the only American man in the 1500 final. Who saw that coming?
Gregorek, who never won an Ivy League title in either the 1500 or the mile (he was second to Dartmouth’s Steve Mangan at both indoor and outdoor Heps as a senior in 2014) is now a World Championship finalist. And while that may come as a shock to most of the U.S. running world, Gregorek thought this was something he was capable of at the beginning of the year.
“I believed I could get to this level, it’s just a matter of making it happen,” Gregorek said.
Gregorek has made a habit of leaving it late as he was 10th at the bell at USAs and second-to-last at the bell in this one, but his kick was once again there when he needed it and he was able to snag the final time qualifier.
Entering the meet, a medal for Gregorek seemed like wishful thinking. And even now, he’s nobody’s favorite to finish in the top three. But when you’re in the final, you’ve got a shot, and Gregorek is not afraid to dream big.
“I’m gonna go ahead and say [my goal] has to be get a medal,” Gregorek said. “I mean, you’ve gotta put yourself in position, you’ve gotta do what we all came here for and what everyone wants.”
Positioning himself better will be key, but Gregorek’s best path to a medal may be to follow what he’s done at USAs and in the semis tonight: run for third and hope that some of the big dogs kill each other by battling for the win. Still, that may be tough for Gregorek to execute in his third race in four days.
Quick Take: Nick Willis and Asbel Kiprop have combined to make 16/18 World/Olympic finals since 2007
Longevity is hard to come by in the 1500, but Willis and Kiprop have been near the top of the world in the event for a decade now. Dating back to the 2007 Worlds in Osaka, Willis and Kiprop have made 16 of the last 18 World/Olympic finals, with Willis making 7/9 (Willis didn’t run Worlds in ‘09 and went out in the semis in ‘13) and Kiprop amazingly making all nine.
Willis said that tonight wasn’t the smoothest run and did not feel as good as he would have liked after yesterday’s first round, but is hoping with a day off he’ll feel better before Sunday’s final.
Kiprop, meanwhile, said that despite a slow start to 2017 he is ready to run for a medal in the final and suggested that he may work together with some of his Kenyan teammates (Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot also made the final), though to what end is unclear.
Kiprop may not have had his usual stellar season’s best entering the meet, but the rest of the world should be afraid in the final. Despite running at the back for most of his semi, he looked like the Kiprop of old tonight, moving up comfortably to qualify with ease. And the Kiprop of old has won three straight world titles. Discount him at your peril.
QT: Elijah Manangoi may be the favorite but that doesn’t mean he’s comfortable with championship racing
Manangoi won the silver medal in 2015, and with Kiprop not in top form earlier this year, may be considered the favorite in the final. Nonetheless, Manangoi said championship racing is very hard and he’s not used to running in much of a pack. Diamond League races are rabbited and usually he’s in the front with not a lot of runners around him. While he prefers a fast races, he said he’s ready for anything. “But I have to run. It’s a championship,” he said.
Quick Take: Chris O’Hare’s “Centrowitz confidence” has been a key part of his big 2017
In years past, O’Hare said he’s been able to talk himself into a semi-confident state but he believes in himself much more this year by emulating the U.S.’s Olympic champion.
“Talking with my psychologist at the start of the year, it was about building what we called a ‘Centrowitz confidence’ because he’s just confident beyond belief and it’s just such a deep-rooted confidence,” O’Hare said.
O’Hare has that confidence now — of course, it helps that he’s in the form of the life — and a medal is certainly possible in the final. That would be a big deal for the UK, which has only one medal through eight days on home soil, and particularly UK middle distance running, which has not had a male 1500 medalist since Steve Cram won the inaugural Worlds in 1983.
Quick Take: Jakub Holusa ends a 34-year drought for the Czech Republic by making the final; can he medal?
Qualifying for the World Championship final is always exciting, but few athletes will be feeling better tonight than Jakub Holusa of the Czech Republic. Holusa is the first Czech athlete in the final since Jan Kubista did it in the inaugural World Championships way back in 1983. It was a big moment for Holusa personally too as he has never made a World, Olympic, or even European final in the 1500.
No Czech athlete has medalled in the 1500 since Josef Odlozil back in 1964, but Holusa, a two-time World Indoor medalist (silver in the 1500 in ‘16 and the 800 in ‘12) could be the man to do it as he looked excellent in closing well to win heat 2. Holusa’s pb is just 3:33, but if Sunday’s final is tactical, he’s definitely got a chance.
QT: Filip Ingebrigtsen eyes medal in final
Ingebrigtsen comes from a super running family. His older brother Henrik is more credentialed (5th at 2012 Olympics), and his younger brother Jakob has been getting more attention this year (for running a 3:56 mile as a 16-year-old and making Worlds in the steeple), but it’s Filip who is in his first Worlds final. Filip said he knows he’s running well so he wants a medal.