Abeba Aregawi beat Jenny Simpson for the gold medal in the women’s 1500m at the Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday night using the simple strategy of taking the US runner’s best asset, and executing it better.
Simpson closed like an express train to take the title in Daegu two years ago; an express train with a great big, radiant smile spread across its face. Aregawi, too, has excellent closing speed and, after running a world lead 3:56.60 in Doha back in May, she has honed that speed in most of her other races.
Simpson came here in great form, having won over a strong field, albeit one without Aregawi, at the Monaco Diamond League meeting in a fast 4:00.48.
In a role reversal of sorts, Simpson led here, though at a pace which left plenty in reserve for a kick. She went through 400m in 1:05.73 and 800m in 2:13.92.
Aregawi was always close behind and moved to the lead as the field started the final lap. She led at 1200m after a 1:04.99 third lap. That was the fastest of the race, but still not that fast in a World Championships final.
Now Aregawi played her final card, sprinting from the 300m mark with the defending champion close behind, her potent kick in reserve. Having gained two or three metres, Aregawi would not let any of it go. Simpson would not give up, either, and crept a little bit closer half-way along the straight.
That was as close as she got, however, and Aregawi, fifth in the Olympic final last year for her native Ethiopia, won a World Championships gold medal this year for her adopted Sweden. She crossed the line in 4:02.67 to Simpson’s 4:02.99.
Aregawi ran 58.89 for the last lap and 43.76 for the final 300m. It is hard to get by someone running that fast unless they falter, and Aregawi did not.
Hellen Obiri of Kenya, who had tripped in the past two global championships finals, took the bronze medal in 4:03.86 after racing close to the lead the whole way. Hannah England, who took the silver medal in Daegu, again charged home along the final straight, but this time missed the medals.
Of the others who were in contention, Faith Kipyegon and Genzebe Dibaba, second and third on the world list at 3:56.98 and 3:57.54 in the fast Doha race, finished fifth and eighth, respectively. Kipyegon was there had she been good enough on the night, Dibaba pushed towards the lead several times but could never settle into a position from which to mount a final challenge.
Zoe Buckman of Australia, a revelation in winning her semi-final the night before, again found a good position just behind Simpson and Aregawi most of the way. But her finishing speed was not as good as the medallists and she finished seventh in 4:05.77. If she continues her progress from here, she could be a challenger to the top women in the next few years.
So, too, could Mary Cain, the 17-year-old US prodigy who became the youngest ever World finalist in the event. She was never a real factor in the final – she finished 10th in 4:07.19 – but her presence in it suggests immense future possibilities.
Len Johnson for the IAAF