Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria wins the gold in the Men's 1500m Final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
With a near-carbon copy rerun of the emphatic runs that brought the 24-year-old into his first Olympic final, Makhloufi broke from the field with about 250 metres to go to storm to a 3:34.08 victory to secure Algeria’s second gold medal in the event, 16 years after Noureddine Morceli’s win in Atlanta. But unlike his storied compatriot who won three successive World titles over the distance prior to taking the Olympic laurels, Makhloufi arrived in London as a little-known if vastly improved metric miler than the one who raced to successive World championships semi-finals in 2009 and 2011.
Makhloufi, this year’s African 800m champion, nearly didn’t make it to this final after being disqualified from all further competition after he dropped out of his first round 800m heat yesterday, charged with not providing a bona fide effort in the race. Upon review of medical evidence, the decision was later reversed by LOCOG, allowing him his date with destiny.
"I’m very, very happy, my family is happy, it has given new life for my country," said Makhloufi, who improved markedly in 2012, knocking more than two seconds from his career best to 3:30.80. That run came in the fast Monaco race on 20 July, suggesting that he was certainly in shape for a fast time in London. He was fifth in that race in the Principality, not managing to summon a kick to keep up with eventual winner Asbel Kiprop. This time however, nobody in the daunting field could issue a challenge to his decisive closing gear.
The race began with a modest tempo, with Belal Mansoor Ali of Bahrain leading the tightly wrapped field through 400 metres in 58.30 and 800 1:58.63. When Kenyan Nixon Chepseba took over with about 600 metres to go was when the jockey for position began.
Makhloufi, Kenyan Silas Kiplagat, Mekonnen Gebremehdin of Ethiopia and Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider appeared to be the key players just beyond the bell, with Matt Centrowitz of the U.S. running close as well. When Makhloufi bolted away, Kiplagat, Centrowitz, and Iguider gave chase initially, with Gebremehdin trying to maintain contact.
With Makhloufi clearly away, the battle for the remaining medals was intense. Iguider struck first, running from fourth to second down the homestretch, but Leo Manzano was closing even faster. Running a distant sixth off the final turn, the U.S champion summoned the finest kick of his career, charging down the straight to eventually strike silver, stopping the clock with a season’s best 3:34.79.
"I just love London – I’ve had several of my best races here and am so glad that I was able to run well again tonight," said Manzano, whose silver was the first medal for the U.S. in the event since Jim Ryun finished second in Mexico City in 1968. "I know (Makhloufi) won, but I feel like I won, too."
Iguider did manage to hold off Centrowitz by just 0.04 in 3:35.13 to take bronze, the first Olympic bronze in the event for Morocco after a gold and a pair of silvers.
Henrik Ingebrigtsen, Norway’s 21-year-old European champion, was fifth, improving his national record to 3:35.43, edging Gebremehdin by a scant 0.01 while Kiplagat, a sub-3:30 runner this season, was the top Kenyan finisher, clocking 3:36.19 for seventh.
It was not a good night for defending medallists. New Zealander Nic Willis the silver medallist in Beijing, was a distant ninth while Asbel Kiprop, the defending champion, was never a factor, clocked 3:43.83 and finished last.
"I had a hamstring pain and I could not manage," Kiprop said. "It happened before I left Kenya. When I came here to run I felt pain."
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
- Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria wins the gold in the Men's 1500m Final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria celebrates being gold medallist in the Men's 1500m Final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria leads the pack in the Men's 1500m Final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright