World leader Elijah Manangoi and reigning three-time champion Asbel Kiprop finished first and second respectively in the same heat yesterday and they finished in the same order in the first of tonight’s 1500m semifinals.
Not only was the finishing order identical, the race also played out in a similar manner. In another tactical race with pushing and shoving aplenty, Jake Wightman lost his position in the last 600 metres before one of the outside contenders for a medal, Robby Andrews – who upset Matthew Centrowitz for the US title – fell to the track after succumbing to a lingering calf injury.
Spurred into life by the sound of the bell, Manangoi made a hard move with just over 400 metres remaining. At this point, Kiprop was still right at the back but the champion gradually moved into position down the back straight. Manangoi held the inside lane the entire way around the final circuit to ensure the semifinal win in 3:40.10 while Kiprop – sixth at the top of the home straight – relied on his fast finish to pick off four athletes, finishing second in 3:40.14.
"I have a lot of experience from World Championship races, I've been doing this for many years and I'm ready for anything,” said Kiprop, who is competing in his sixth successive World Championships at the age of 28. “It was very tactical today but there was a lot of pushing, so I stayed at the back to stay out of trouble.
“I knew I had the speed in my legs over the last lap but I just waited for my moment to ease through and qualify. It was all about staying out of danger today and having a shot at gold on Sunday.”
Disqualified in the heats of the Olympics last year for obstruction, European champion Filip Ingebrigtsen from Norway punched the air in celebration after progressing through in third in 3:40.23. Bahrain’s Sadik Mikhou (3:40.52) and Spain’s Adel Mechaal (3:40.60) also qualified by right. But world bronze medallist Abdalaati Iguider from Morocco just missed out on a place in the final in sixth in 3:40.76 and wasn't fast enough to qualify on time.
The pace in the second semifinal was moderately faster. Timothy Cheruiyot, with his distinctive forward-leaning gait, was a willing leader through 800 metres in 2:00.90 – compared to 2:03.95 in the first semifinal – which set the pace for a faster race as the first seven finishers all qualified for the final.
Cheruiyot looked on course for a gun-to-tape semifinal win until world indoor silver medallist Jakub Holusa from the Czech Republic darted through on the inside to qualify as a semifinal winner in 3:38.05 ahead of Cheruiyot in 3:38.24. Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski finished quickly to secure third in 3:38.32 ahead of Brit Chris O’Hare (3:38.59) and Morocco’s Fouad Elkaam (3:38.64) who all qualified automatically.
But one noteworthy athlete to miss out on a place in the final is Kenyan champion Ronald Kwemoi, who has looked mightily impressive this season on the IAAF Diamond League circuit over 1500m and 3000m. But in his last race before the championships, Kwemoi hobbled off the track in Monaco and the 21-year-old was a far cry from his early season shape here in London, finishing ninth in 3:39.47.
Steven Mills for the IAAF