1500m Worlds Preview: With No Centro, Willis and Only 1 Kenyan, This Race is There For The Taking

by LetsRun.com
February 28, 2018

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Update: Note Ayanleh Souleiman is out of the meet with Visa problems.

Here are some of the leading entrants for the men’s 1500 at the 2018 IAAF World Indoor track and field championships which start tomorrow in Birmingham.

Athlete Nat PB SB Comment
1. Ayanleh Souleiman DJI 3:35.2 3:35.39 Wins in Madrid and Lieven this year. 2014 World Indoor champ
2. Abdalaati Iguider MAR 3:34.10 3:35.79 2012 World Indoor champ. No wins this year. Ran 3k at last Worlds (entered in 3k as well)
3. Samuel Tefera ETH 3:36.05 3:36.05 Undefeated in 2 smaller meets. 3:36.05 is world junior record. Only 18
4. Vincent Kibet KEN 3:34.91 3:36.86 Won Dusseldorf, 3rd in Madrid (behind Souleiman), 2nd in Glasgow, 7th in 2016.
5. Brahim Kaazouzi MAR 3:36.95 3:36.95 3rd, 5th, and 3rd in his 1500s this winter
6. Chris O’Hare GBR 3:37.03 3:37.03 Won at Millrose and New Balance
7. Taresa Tolosa ETH 3:37.41 3:37.41 1st, 5th and 1st in 3 races this winter.
8. Jake Wightman GBR 3:37.43 3:37.43 2nd at New Balance, British champ
8. M. Lewandowski POL 3:37.37 3:37.67 Also listed in 800
10. Jakub Holusa CZE 3:37.68 3:37.91 World Indoor silver in 2016 in 1500, in 2014 in 800.
11. Craig Engels USA 3:38.53 3:38.53 Can he challenge on this level?
12. Ryan Gregson AUS 3:36.50 3:39.66
Got win in mile in Ireland. Gearing up for Commonwealths outdoors
13. B. Blankenship USA 3:35.28 3:43.09
2016 Olympic finalist was 2nd at USAs behind Chelimo but ahead of Engels

Looking at that list, what jumps out you? Two things jump out at us.

1) There is only one Kenyan entered. 

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That’s a huge deal. The best 1500 runners in the world are predominately Kenyan – 7 of the 10 fastest men in the world in 2017 were from Kenya – and thus it was hard for us believe that there was only one Kenyan entrant here. Yes, we know the Commonwealth Games are coming up but that makes it even more remarkable for us as the Kenyans had to get in shape for the CG Trials after which two of the top Kenyan stars in Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot both said they were going to run CGs but not World Indoors. So you’d think the third, 4th, 5th, 6th best Kenyans would want a shot at World glory and $40,000 considering Manangoi and Cheruiyot aren’t racing here. And if we were Manangoi and Cheruiyot, we’d definitely race here. We’d hit it hard now in March (World Indoors) and April (CGS), then back and off build up against for July and August.

Anyways, with Manangoi and Cheruiyot not doing it, we finally figured out one of the reasons why there aren’t other Kenyans doing it and it appears to be pretty simple. They a)are very young and b) don’t have the qualifying time.

The third and fourth placers at the Kenyan CB Trials were very young.

CG Trials
1. Timothy Cheruiyot – 3:34.84 – World silver medallist is doing CGs.
2. Elijah Manangoi – 3:35.42 – World gold medallist is doing CGs.
3. Kumari Taki – 3:35.83 – Ran that 3:35 this year at Kenyan Trials – 18 year old doesn’t have qualifier
4. George Manangoi – 3:36.20 – The 3:36.20 the 17yr old ran at the CG Trials is his pb. Doesn’t have a qualifier.
5. Evans Kipchumba – 3:39.97 – 24-yr old doesn’t have a qualifier and that type of time doesn’t make him competitive.
6. Vincent Kibet – 3:42.79 – He’s the lone Kenyan racing worlds.

2) The 1500 represents an opportunity of a lifetime for everyone actually entered.

With only one Kenyan in the field and no Nick Willis (stress reaction) or defending champion Matthew Centrowitz (a little banged up in the fall, going to Australia instead), the opportunity for a medal is there for the taking.

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Now onto our analysis.

Who is the favorite in this field? It has to be 2014 world indoor champion Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti.

Yes, we know he was horrible in 2017 as he only ran 3:34.70 outdoors after running at least 3:31 every year since 2012 and didn’t get out of the heats at World outdoors, but this year he’s been good. He’s run the 2nd fastest of anyone in the world (Edward Cheserek is #1)  and he’s undefeated on the year, having won in Madrid and Lievin.

After Souleiman, the second fastest man on the year is Iguider. Iguider won the 2012 world indoor 1500 title be has yet to win a 1500 so far this year. As a result, we think he might medal but don’t see him medalling.

The third fastest entrant based on 2018 1500 times is very intriguing in our minds. Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera is just 18 and this year he has run both the world junior record (3:36.05) and also crushed everyone in his two races (Iguider was the biggest name he beat and he beat him by .82 seconds). Last summer, he ran 3:33 in Hengelo. However, he then went out in the first round of World Outdoors.

We don’t think the 4th and 5th fastest entrants in Brahim Kaazouzi, an Olympic semifinalist from Rio, and Vincent Kibet of Kenya are threats for gold as neither has come close to winning anything they’ve run this year. The sixth seed, Taresa Tolosa of Ethiopia, is just 19 and has won twice this year indoors but was smoked by a bunch of other guys in the field in Lievin where hew was just 5th on February 13th.

The guy who really needs to come up big is the 7th-seed, Brit Chris O’Hare. He’s won both of his races this year and will have the support of the home crowd behind him. Britain will likely struggle to win a single gold so this is the opportunity of a lifetime for him. If you convert the 3:54.13 mile he ran at Millrose to a 1500 (3:36.75) he’d be the #4 seed. The other Brit, Jake Wightman, was .40 behind O’Hare in Boston but that was Wightman’s first race of the year and he enters Worlds after running an indoor 800 pb last week (1:47.69).

Chris O'Hare with son Ronan after winning the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at the 2018 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly) Chris O’Hare with son Ronan after winning the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at the 2018 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Two Eastern Europeans in the top 11 both have big kicks. Poland’s Marcin Lewandowki has won two European indoor golds (one at 800, one at 1500) but he lost to Tolosa in the middle of the month. And Jakub Holusa, who surprisingly won silver two years ago, has finished 3rd, 6th, third, and 7th in his last 4 international indoor 1500s.

Lastly, we should talk about the two Americans. Craig Engels, the US runner-up, is running at his first Worlds as the 11th fastest entrant on the year. He’s run 3:53.93 for the mile, however, so a medal isn’t out of the question and you know a Nike Oregon Project member is always dreaming big and looking for some hardware. Yes, he was only third at USAs but he was racing virtually every weekend indoors as while he was winning many races, he still needed a qualifier. With a week off, we could see an even better effort and a 3:52 type effort could put him in the mix. Olympic finalist Ben Blankenship was 3rd at Millrose and beat Engels at USAs.

LRC Prediction: This is impossible to predict.

We think the medals go to Souleiman, Tefera and O’Hare (assuming O’Hare runs for a medal and not gold). As fans, picking Souleiman as the champ is a bit hard for us to do given his ties to coach Jama Aden, picking O’Hare seems like too much of  Disney movie thing to do so we’ll pick an Ethiopian teenager to win it as it would be cool to see the Ethiopian men as players in the 1500. But that pick may be dumb as he’s got very little experience period and then hardly any indoors (two races) or in non-rabbitted races.

1) Tefera 2) Souleiman 3) O’Hare

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What: 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships

When: March 1-4, 2018

Where: Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England

Schedule * Entries * TV/streaming information * All LRC coverage

More: Full 2018 Worlds Coverage *Other Previews: *M800 *W800 *M3k *W3k
*Archive From 2016: Matthew Centrowitz Caps Perfect Season with First World Title in Men’s 1500

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