In a thoroughly enjoyable and dramatically fought battle, Ethiopian Deresse Mekkonen captured a surprise victory in the men’s 1500m title tonight. But as it turned out, it took a little bit longer than the 3 minutes and 38.23 seconds it took the Ethiopian to reach the finish to sort out who would take what medal in the championships’ most entertaining contest thus far.
Over the course of the race, the lead changed hands no less than half a dozen times, and at the bell, at least six men were in solid contention, including the Spanish pair who electrified the sell-out crowd at the Palau Lluis Puig with their agressive running. Indeed, if the hosts could pull off a surprise at one event at these championships, the men’s 1500m was certainly near the top of the list.
Daniel Kipchirchir Komen took the initial lead from the gun, with New Zealander Nick Willis tucking in closely behind. Less than one lap into the race, Mekkonen made a move of his own, taking the lead 300m into the race.
To avoid jostling in the pack his teammate Mekkonen Gebremehdin moved onto Willis’ shoulder a half lap later looking to take the lead, but the second Kenyan, Suleiman Simotwo got by him and went to the front instead. A few seconds later, it was Moroccan Youssef Baba’s turn to try to control the pace, as he took the lead with 800m to go.
Meanwhile, from the back, the Spaniard Higuero stirred the crowd when he made a move towards the front, working his way into third place and positioning himself nicely for the final charge. Casado moved up from the back as well, first into fifth and then into third, just to the outside of Higuero.
The enigmatic Bahraini Rashid Ramzi also made his move into contention as the pack approached the bell, and when it sounded, a half dozen remained in the contest, led by Mekonnen.
As the pack came off the final turn, Mekonnen's tiny frame held off Komen to take what would be an improbable win for the 20-year-old who failed to move on from the heats at the World Championships in Osaka last year.
Komen (3:38.54), who took silver two years ago, was next across the line to repeat his Moscow finish with Higuero (3:38:82) edging the desperately close Casado (3:38:88).
But soon after the thoroughly entertaining contest was concluded, Mekkonen was disqualified for a lane violation (rule 163.3), giving Komen gold, and a 2-3 finish for Spain with Casado gaining the bronze.
But the switch was short-lived. An appeal lodged by the Ethiopian Federation was upheld, reversing the initial disqualification and giving Mekkonen the victory, with Komen Kipchirchir second followed by Higuero and Casado.
Ramzi, the 800/1500m World champion in 2005 and the silver medallist in the 1500m in Osaka, was a distant fifth (3:40.26) just ahead of Ethiopian teen Mekonnen Gebremehdin.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF