A quartet of Kenyans, three Americans plus an Algerian, Moroccan, New Zealander, Ethiopian and a British athlete will contest the final on Sunday following two relatively incident-free semi-finals on Friday night.
The first semi was comfortably taken by red-hot favourite Asbel Kiprop, who earned a straight forward passage to the final as the Kenyan star seeks a hat-trick of world titles.
The race took on-all-too familiar theme with the athletes happy to amble slowly around the track until they engaged in a burn up over the final lap in the race to determine the five automatic qualification berths.
For the record, Belgium’s Pieter-Jan Hannes and two-time World medallist Matt Centrowitz took their turn at the front until the long-limbed Kiprop surged from the back to the front a little after 500 metres to assume control of the race, albeit at a pedestrian pace.
With 450 metres remaining, Kiprop kicked for home followed by Turkey’s Ilham Tanui Ozbilen and Great Britain’s 2013 world championships finalist Chris O’Hare. However, there was a momentary cause for concern for 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis who was a near ten metres down in 11th place at the bell.
In the final lap sprint for home, Kiprop remained in perfect control from O’Hare with Kiprop’s compatriot Silas Kiplagat and Centrowitz also in close contention. Willis started to make his move down the back straight and was in striking distance as he swung wide to mount his attack down the home straight.
While Kiprop cantered to the heat win a modest 3:43.48, albeit with a 51.56 last lap, to qualify for a record-equalling fifth world championships 1500m final – he matches Spanish duo Fermin Cacho and Reyes Estevez, Algerian three-time four champion Noureddine Morceli and four-time gold medallist Hicham El Guerrouj – Willis unleashed a blistering late burst to grab second, coming home just 0.09 down.
Kiplagat in 3:43.64 took third with Centrowitz fourth in 3:43.97. The fifth spot was grabbed thanks to a desperate late dash from 2012 Olympic silver medallist Leo Manzano who snatched the final automatic qualification spot by 0.03 from Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin.
Wisely, given the slow nature of the first semi-final, the Kenyan duo of Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot ensured the second semi-final would not be at the same pace with the reward of seven athletes (five automatic and two non-automatic) advancing to the final.
Manangoi running almost stride-for-stride with his countryman went through 800m in 1:59.00 and hit the bell in 2:41.45 with the bronze and gold medallists from the London 2012 Olympic Games, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider and Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi in close order.
Down the back straight on the final lap, it was Makhloufi who took control of the race with Great Britain’s Charlie Grice surprisingly well placed.
Entering the home straight, it was Makhloufi with Manangoi on his inside with the Kenyan taking the honour of being the heat winner in a swift 3:35.00, winning by 0.05 from the impressive Algerian.
Iguider placed third in 3:35.20 with Grice in fourth ensuring he would be the lone European presence in the final.
Cheruiyot took the fifth and final automatic spot in 3:35.76 while USA’s Robbie Andrews was sixth and took one of the non-automatic slots to ensure a full US complement of three athletes in the final. Ethiopian record holder Aman Wote grabbed seventh to also progress.
There would no place in the final, however, for the 2013 world championships bronze medallist Johan Cronje. The South African placed eighth and missed out.
Steve Landells for the IAAF