Although he was the defending champion, Asbel Kiprop was out for redemption in the men’s 1500m final after the Kenyan finished last in the 2012 Olympic final when carrying an injury. This time there was no dispute about who is the world’s best middle-distance runner.
Kiprop, competing in his fourth World Championships 1500m final despite being just 24 years of age, kept himself out of trouble and took an early lead, albeit at a comfortable pace. After passing through the first lap in 59.68, team-mate Nixon Chepseba shot into the lead.
At half way, Chepseba had built up a six-metre lead on the rest of the field, but his opponents were not worried. He passed through 800m in 1:59.24, but his lead had dwindled to less than a stride length as the bell sounded for the last lap.
With less than 400m remaining, Kiprop was right behind Chepseba with Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin and USA’s Matthew Centrowitz seemingly ready to pounce.
The third Kenyan in the field, defending silver medallist Silas Kiplagat, began to kick with 150m to go and looked set to get among the medals. As the field entered the home straight, Chepseba began to fade as Kiprop edged ahead.
In a frantic final 50 metres, Kiprop kept his cool out in front and won in 3:36.28, but behind him Kiplagat had left himself with too much to do. Meanwhile, Centrowitz passed the fading Chepseba to finish in second place with 3:36.78, improving on the bronze medal he won in Daegu two years ago.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was the well-timed dip of South Africa’s Johan Cronje to secure the bronze in 3:36.83. His nation had never before had a top-eight finisher in this event at the World Championships, let alone a medallist.
Chepseba finished an agonising four hundredths of a second away from a medal in fourth, while Germany’s Homiyu Tesfaye was another surprise top-five finisher, clocking 3:37.03 to finish one place and 0.08 ahead of Kiplagat.
Gebremedhin finished within one second of the winner with 3:37.21, but in a close finish it was only good enough for seventh place, one ahead of European champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen of Norway.
Kiprop is now just the third multiple champion in this event at the World Championships, following Nourredine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj, who won three golds each.
Any hopes of a Kenyan medal sweep, however, will have to wait until Beijing in two years’ time.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF