Asbel Kiprop en route to his world-leading 3:28.88 run in Monaco (Philippe Fitte) © Copyright
Kiprop, who at 19 years, 50 days old became the youngest-ever medallist in the event in Beijing, is a particularly solid bet to repeat given his performance in Monaco in late July where the performance he displayed clearly made him the man to beat in London. Dominating the proceedings, Kiprop powered to a commanding 3:28.88 run, the first sub-3:29 performance since 2004. It was the 23-year-old’s second career best of 2012, and his third 1500m/mile win of the season. After the race he said he’s fully prepared for any pace the race might throw at him – fast or slow. There's no reason to doubt him.
Should he succeed, he’ll become only the second man to win back-to-back Olympic titles in the event and will do so in the presence of the man whose feat he's hoping to emulate: 1980 and 1984 winner Sebastian Coe, the LOCOG chief and IAAF Vice President.
The other two-thirds of the Kenyan trio – Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chebseba – also form his chief opposition.
Kiplagat emerged victorious from the notoriously difficult Kenyan Trials, nabbed an early season victory over Kiprop in Doha (3:29.63 PB) and won his final pre-Olympic tune-up, the Mile in London's Samsung Diamond League fixture. He was second behind Kiprop at last year’s World Championships so despite his 22 years, he’s already a proven performer in championship competition.
At 21 Chebseba is the youngest of the three and the least experienced in multi-round competitions. But like the other two, he's already quite fast and like Kiprop, he joined the sub-3:30 ranks this season, first with a 3:29.90 win in Hengelo and again to 3:29.77 behind Kiprop in Monaco. He also beat the Olympic champion at the Trials.
There have of course been plenty of spoilers in the past, with several in the potential field of finalists adequately prepared to spring a surprise again, particularly in what is likely to be a more tactical race in the 3:34-3:35 range.
Leading that list is New Zealander Nick Willis, the 2008 silver medallist, who signalled that he's better than ever after his 3:30.35 Area record in Monaco. At 3:30.54 and 3:30.80 in Monaco respectively, Moroccan Amine Laalou and Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria showed they'll be arriving in London in top form as well, while Mekonnen Gebremedhin (3:31.45 SB) leads the Ethiopian contingent.
Experienced Andy Baddeley and newcomer Ross Murray are the home team's entrants. Baddeley, a finalist in Beijing four years ago, has collected four low-key victories this season while Murray, 21, lowered his career best to 3:34.76 in Hengelo in May.
Daegu surprise bronze medallist Matt Centrowitz finished second at the U.S. Trials, but will come to London with relatively few races under his belt this year.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
2006 Evergreen Mutola