There was no shortage of entertainment value in the men’s 1500m, but to simply say that Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider ‘won’ wouldn’t quite do justice to the 24-year-old’s scrappy performance. More accurately, he managed to survive one of the more physically bruising middle distance finals in recent memory.
Iguider, who took silver two years ago in Doha, decided to control the early proceedings here, and remained wary of home crowd favourite Ilham Tanui Özbilen, the former Kenyan William Biwott Tanui, who is in the midst of his best season since his breakout in 2009.
The Turk shadowed Iguider from the gun, and didn't make his move for the front with 400 metres to go. And that was when a few playground style (near) rumbles ensued.
The first was between Özbilen and Ethiopian Mekonnen Gebremedhin when the latter tried to move by and take over the lead. But he was elbowed back and put slightly off balance, and seemingly out of the race.
Iguider kept on the pressure and nearly passed Özbilen on the inside with about 100 metres to go, but he too was held off by the Turk whose sole duty at this pot was to maintain his position for the screaming crowd, at virtually any cost.
When the pair reached the homestraight, the Moroccan again made a move for the front. Running wide, he was sent wider still by Özbilen's attempted block but this time he couldn't keep Iguider's attack at bay. Iguider took the win in 3:45.21 to become the first man to win both World junior and World indoor 1500m gold.
Despite appearances, Iguider said the race wasn't nearly as difficult for him as it may have seemed.
"The race was quite easy for me," he said. "I had a strategy ready for the last 600m. In the last 100m, the Turkish athlete tried to make me run toward the outside, but I managed to overtake him."
Özbilen, the World junior record holder in the mile and still just 22, took silver in 3:45.35.
"It was a good race but in the last metres I was very tired, but I tried my best,"Özbilen said.
Gebremehdin, who finished fourth two years ago, hung on for bronze this time clocking 3:45.90.
Further back, Aman Wote, another Ethiopian (3:47.02) and Ayanleh Souleiman (3:47.35) of Djibouti rounded out the top five.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF