Daegu, Korea - Yusuf Saad Kamel’s bid to successfully defend this title withered in a slow run, ever so slightly bizarre, first semi-final as the Bahrain athlete could only finish sixth.
Not since the great Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj was in his pomp have we had a repeat winner of this title and so it will remain at least for another two years.
The first semi-final was an ugly, slow affair which will not linger long in the memory. Matt Centrowitz went to the front from the gun, but it can hardly be said he took up the pace because it was, quite frankly, non-existent.
The US champion went through one lap in a pedestrian 66.55 and by lap two, although Mekonnen Gebremedhin had moved to the front he passed the 800m mark in 2:11.05 - a time which would hardly stir the soul for a heptathlete competing over the two-lap distance.
Of course, the men had a further 700m to run and five automatic qualification places to snare, so the race did come to life….eventually.
The penultimate lap was full of much jostling and pushing and it was Centrowitz who hit the bell in 2:53.83 followed by a gaggle of athletes over which you could have thrown over the proverbial blanket.
Down the back stretch it was Centrowitz, from Amine Laalou and Silas Kiplagat of Kenya before the predictable final burn up. Surprisingly the American held on to claim to win by 0.05 in 3:46.66 with Gebremedhin taking second.
Kiplagat, the World leader, also successfully made it through in third (3:46.75) with the fast-finishing Medhi Baala of France – who remember had been reinstated on appeal after tripping and falling in the first round heats – storming home to place fourth. The fifth and final qualifier was Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco with Kamel short of pace down in sixth and, sadly for him, out of the championships.
The well-fancied Laalou, the two-time former World 800m finalist, of Morocco was also surprisingly eliminated down in seventh.
Seven athletes were rewarded with a place in the final in a much faster second semi-final. The pace was set from the outset by Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya who rattled the field through one lap in 57.08 and 800m in 1:55.88 pursued by Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia. The field was already strung out in fact, this semi-final was the chalk to the first semi-final’s cheese.
By the bell Mekonnen had taken a slight lead from the slowly fading Komen with Kiprop in ominously close order. Entering the home stretch any one of about ten athletes had genuine claims for a place in the final but it was Kiprop who emerged from the pack to take the heat win in 3:36.84. Behind him, though, was carnage. Mekonnen, a two-time World Indoor champion wilted to finish down in 11th in 3:44.65. Komen wound up ninth and was unrewarded for his front-running tactics. Leonel Manzano of the US appeared to pull up down the home stretch and finished 13th and plum last.
Behind Kiprop a mere 0.12 separated second to sixth. Tarek Boukensa of Algeria grabbed the runner-up spot in 3:36.84 followed by Mohamed Moustaoui of Morocco, European Indoor champion Manuel Olmedo of Spain and Eduar Villanueva who smashed the Venezuelan national record with 3:36.96. He also became the first man from the South American nation to ever make a World Championships final. Also in this cluster qualifying as one of the two fastest losers was Ciaran O’Lionaird (3:36.96), who became the first Irishman to make this final since Niall Bruton 16 years ago.
There was also a scare for Nick Willis, the Olympic silver medallist. The New Zealander appeared to be caught napping in the latter stages but battled through to finish seventh in 3:37.39 and squeeze into the final as the second fastest loser.
Steve Landells for the IAAF