By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
LONDON (07-Aug) — Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon backed up her Olympic 1500m title from Rio last year by grabbing the gold medal again here tonight at London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In a wild finish, where five women were still in contention for the medals with 50 meters to go, Kipyegon had both the best position and the fastest top speed, stopping the clock in 4:02.59 on the strength of a 58.1-second final lap.
“I knew it would be fast, it is such a quality field,” Kipyegon told IAAF interviewers. “The best was going to win here. It was always going to be quick and competitive.”
The race was made, however, by Britain’s Laura Muir and the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan. Muir, the British record holder, took the lead from the gun, and appeared to be nearly sprinting down the backstretch. Jenny Simpson of the United States, last year’s Olympic bronze medalist, followed Muir immediately as did Kipyegon and Sweden’s Meraf Bahta. Hassan was at the back of the 12-women field waiting for the race to sort itself out.
“What I like to do is run as hard as I can and that’s what I did today,” Muir said in her post-race interview.
But the Scotswoman tempered her speed into the homestretch, resulting in a not-too-fast 65.4-second first 400 meters. Kipyegon was right in her draft with Poland’s Angelika Cichocka and Simpson just slightly behind. Muir stayed in the lead through 800 meters, but the pace slowed dramatically to just 71.8 seconds prompting Hassan to surge past the entire field on the backstretch and take the lead.
Kipyegon knew she couldn’t let Hassan go, and chased the Dutchwoman. The pair seemed to already be running close to flat out, despite the fact that there was still about 500 meters left in the race. Hassan ran the third 400 meters in a blistering 61.2 seconds with Kipyegon just a fraction of a second behind. Running down the back stretch behind the leaders, Simpson sensed an opportunity: the leaders’ pace was unsustainable.
“I remember coming around the bend and just thinking, I can see how hard Faith and Hassan are racing each other, and I really believe I can get one of them if they’re working this hard, this far out,” Simpson told reporters.
Hassan and Kipyegon bolted into the homestretch going full throttle with Muir and South Africa’s Caster Semenya in hot pursuit. It looked like they would get the gold and the silver, when Hassan started to tie up. Meanwhile, Simpson found a clear line on the inside and was quickly gaining ground.
“The final stretch, I just thought, I can win,” Simpson said. “I can win, and I thought no one’s going to believe that I’m doing this again. It just felt so amazing, and it’s kind of the surprisingly lucid last 100 meters for me.”
She didn’t win, but Simpson managed to slice through for second in 4:02.76, closing in 58.8 seconds, and taking her fourth medal at a global championships since 2011. Semenya managed to beat the fading Muir for the bronze inside of the final five meters, 4:02.90 to 4:02.97. An exhausted Hassan finished fifth in 4:03.34.
“1500m is a tactical race, I tried to find my own space but fortunately I managed to get away with the bronze so I am happy,” Semenya told IAAF interviewers. She now has two days to rest before the heats of the 800 meters where she is the defending champion.
Muir, who received a thunderous reception from the crowd prior to the race, said she had run her heart out.
“You know it’s fourth, what can I say,” Muir told IAAF interviewers. “I gave it everything I had but ran out of energy in the last 50 meters as they came past. Considering the disruption I had this year, I did all I could.”
World record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia finished last in 4:06.72. She had been in fifth place at the 1200 meter mark, but faded badly in the final 300 meters.