Edmonton silver medallist Bernard Lagat was the class act of the opening round with a 3:39.97 winning time, ahead of the year’s leader Roberto Parra of Spain (3:40.40).
Lagat’s fast time pulled time qualifiers from Ivan Heshko of Ukraine (3:40.61), Russia’s Andrey Zadorozhniy (3:40.80), and Irish runner James Nolan (3:40.85).
The other Kenyan, Cornelius Chirchir, who is the youngest runner on the event start list, was also a heat winner with 3:41.08, as Spain’s Juan Carlos Higuero (3:41.37) advanced to the final behind him.
A close finish in the opening section knocked out the defending champion, Rui Silva of Portugal (3:48.41).
Driss Maazouzi of France (3:48.36) and Morocco’s Abdelkader Hachlaf (3:48.39) held off Silva’s attempt to break into the top two and secure and automatic spot in the final, and the slow time ensured that no others would advance from that heat.