LONDON, Aug 8, (Agencies): Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon added the world title to her Olympic gold when she won a superb women’s 1,500 metres final in a white-hot London Stadium atmosphere on Monday, judging her charge to perfection and holding off the field. Kipyegon, silver medallist two years ago, took up the running with 600 to go and was stride for stride with in-form Sifan Hassan until the Dutchwoman faded while the Kenyan stayed strong to cross the line in four minutes 2.59 seconds.
Jenny Simpson of the United States, the 30-year-old 2011 champion, also showed great track nous as she slipped up the inside and finished like a teenage sprinter to take second. South Africa’s 800 metres specialist Caster Semenya also powered through on the line to grab the bronze. “I knew it would be fast, it is such a quality field,” Kipyegon said. “The best was going to win here. It was always going to be quick and competitive.”
After a relatively low-key night’s action, the 55,000 crowd roared their encouragement to home hopes Laura Muir and Laura Weightman to create a vibrant atmosphere. Muir had travelled to Rio de Janeiro with real medal hopes last year after a stellar season but failed to live with the last-lap pace in the Olympic final and finished seventh.
This time she had vowed not to repeat that error and set the pace from the start and, although it was not a particularly punishing one, her positive move sent the crowd into a frenzy. After a slow second lap, Kipyegon and Hassan, the fastest over the distance in the world this year, took it up with 600 to go as Muir and Simpson stayed in their wake in a thrilling last 300. But it was the Kenyan who had the superior staying power as she drove through the line for a brilliant win to follow her 2016 triumph at the Olympics in Rio.
Hassan, who slipped to fifth, and then Muir, fourth, ran out of gas over the last few metres, allowing Simpson and Semenya, who has barely run a 1,500 in her career but has been unbeatable over two laps, to snatch the minor medals. “My coach has been telling me all day, ‘Be willing to run your guts out and you’ll be great’, so I did exactly what she said,” Simpson said. “The last 300 metres in particular I ran my guts out and it paid off.
“Having the experience is huge because having the ability to stay calm is so hard. To come out with a medal, I think it was down to keeping my wits about me.” Simpson said she has now run a remarkable 17 global championship 1,500m races and “learned 17 different ways of running them.” “I don’t think I’ve ever passed on the inside before but for a nanosecond I saw that gap open. It’s risky, it could have closed, but it worked out,” she said.
Semenya, who will start as favourite to retain her world title over 800m, said she had enjoyed her major championship experience of the longer distance. “It’s just the beginning for me, you’ll be seeing more of me in the 1,500,” she said. “I like the challenge and I think I can do better.” Semenya, whose entire career has been run in the spotlight of questions about her hyperandrogenism and the claimed advantage her high natural testosterone levels give her, was less happy to discuss that situation. “I’ve no time for nonsense about medication,” she said. “My focus is on being healthy and competing.”
Ethiopia’s defending champion and world record holder Genzebe Dibaba looked short of fitness and finished last. The tune blaring across the stadium sound system was unmistakable: “Jamming” by Bob Marley. The flag the winner paraded around the track was familiar, too: The black, green and gold cross of Jamaica.
That 110-meter hurdler Omar McLeod was at the center of this celebration Monday wasn’t all that big a surprise. That McLeod was the first from the island to do the honors at this year’s world championships still feels like something of a shock. The 23-year-old from Kingston did what Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson could not the previous nights in the 100 meters — namely, powered toward the finish line and left the field behind to bring a gold medal home to a country that has come to expect nothing less.
“I took it upon myself to reroute that and bring that spark back,” said McLeod, who adds this gold medal to his Olympic title from last year. “I’m happy I did that.” McLeod won in 13.04 seconds, while the world-record holder, American Aries Merritt, finished fifth. It marked the first disappointment of the meet for the US on a straightaway where Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie won the 100 and Christian Coleman finished second to Gatlin and one spot ahead of Bolt.
The US got shut out of the medals in the 110 hurdles for the first time since the world championships were first contested in 1983. That, plus the unlikely notion of McLeod, not Bolt, breaking the ice at the top of the podium for Jamaica were Exhibits 1 and 1a of why they run the races. Sergey Shubenkov of Russia finished .1 seconds behind McLeod for the silver medal, though that prize will go in nobody’s column.
Shubenkov came in as the defending world champion, but was not able to compete at the Olympics last year because of the doping scandal that has engulfed his country. He is one of 19 Russians cleared to compete in London this year — his anti-doping regimen judged to be robust enough to return to competition. But with Russia’s track federation still suspended, all 19 of the Russians are competing as neutral athletes. They are wearing aqua, red and pink uniforms with no hint of the Russian flag or any other Russian symbol.
“Not a big deal,” Shubenkov said. “There are a lot of people in my hometown, it’s 4 or 5 am, and they’re not sleeping. It means a lot for my family. It means a lot for every person in my country that was watching it, supporting me. The color of the vest doesn’t matter.” Asked whether doping is still a problem in his home country, Shubenkov insisted “not only in Russia but worldwide.” “I’m not into the subject, really,” he said. “Since my clearance, I got into my training and I’m not as much into the news as I was last year.” Other gold medalists Monday were Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump and Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk in the hammer throw.