Kenya’s Geoffrey Kibet lived up to his favourite status, but had it not been for a slight mistake with 90m to go from Ethiopia’s Henok Tesfaye, the result could have been very different.
Ali Al-Deraan of Saudi Arabia led from the start and ensured the pace was a steady one, passing through 200m in 26.07 and 400m in 54.61. USA’s Dylan Ferris moved up at the bell to challenge for the lead, while Kibet was boxed in by Russia’s Aleksandr Sheplyakov.
With half a lap to go, Ferris hit the front but his lead was short-lived as the rest of the field began to kick for home. Tesfaye moved up on the inside while Kibet did likewise on the outside. But Tesfaye ran a bit too close to the inside curb and stepped on it, causing him to lose his balance – just when it looked as though he was about to sprint to gold.
Kibet then had the lead to himself, but was chased hard by Al-Deraan and Morocco’s Amine El Manaoui. The 17-year-old Kenyan held on for gold in 1:49.99, with Al-Deraan timing his dip to perfection to deny El Manaoui the silver medal, 1:50.10 to 1:50.12.
Sheplyakov, who had looked great in the qualifying rounds, finished outside the medals in fourth with Turkey’s Cihat Ulus fifth, ahead of Australia’s James Kaan. Tesfaye regained composure after losing his momentum and placed seventh, one hundredth of a second ahead of Ferris.