She becomes the first American to win the event in 28 years.
Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
DAEGU — On the sixth day of these 13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics here on Thursday, all eyes were on Samsung Diamond League event leader Morgan Uceny in the 1500m final in Daegu Stadium. Uceny, who has shown steady improvement in both her times and her racing skills this year was again wearing her necklace of colorful plastic beads, a good luck charm which for some reason she did not wear in the semi-finals where she had no trouble advancing.
But with about 550 meters left in the final, Uceny’s luck turned bad. Kenya’s Hellen Obiri tripped and fell hard to the track. Uceny was directly behind her, and instantly tumbled over Obiri, her quest for a medal dashed.
“You work so hard to get to a final, and you kind of feel like your opportunity was taken away from you for a stupid thing,” Uceny said fighting back tears. “It’s frustrating, but it happens.”
Ahead of the fall, the race was taking a far more positive turn for Uceny’s teammate, Jenny Simpson, the former University of Colorado steeplechaser. Simpson had positioned herself perfectly in the slow-moving pack, and when the sprint for home began in earnest in the homestretch, she moved from fourth the first in the last 80 meters to take the first gold medal for an American woman in this discipline since 1983 when Mary Decker won the event at the inaugural edition of these championships in Helsinki. It mattered not that Simpson’s time of 4:05.40 was the slowest winning mark in the history of these championships.
“The world championships is all about coming here and getting top-3,” Simpson said, dismissing a reporter’s assertion that the title was possibly less valuable because of the slow time. “So, I didn’t worry about time, I didn’t worry about anyone around me. I worried about me, and I was first to the finish line tonight.”
Behind Simpson, Britain’s Hannah England also showed she has a strong sprint, running in the center of the track to take second. Spain’s Natalia Rodríguez, who led the race going into the final turn and was disqualified in the 2009 edition of these championships for a foul after finishing first, got the bronze. Two-time defending champion, Bahrain’s Maryam Yusuf Jamal, seemed to simply give up in the final sprint and finished last.
In the final of the men’s 3000m steeplechase, defending champion Ezekiel Kemboi exploded out of the penultimate turn and through the final water jump to win going away in 8:14.85. He was so far ahead by the time he got to the finish line, he allowed himself to drift all the way over to lane 7 where he nearly stopped before shuffling over the finish line. He immediately took off his singlet, then broke into dance, much to the delight of the crowd and the media.
“In the last 800 I think I was stronger,” Kemboi said in his Flotrack interview. “I never wanted to go to the front because I wanted to stay in the middle, see who goes to the front, then I go with him.” He added: “In the last 200 meters I started to increase the pace.”
His teammate Brimin Kipruto, the 2008 Olympic champion, had to use all of his strength to hold off a powerful stretch run by France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad who came from fifth place to nearly get silver, but fell slightly short, 8:16.05 to 8:16.09. Mekhissi-Benabbad’s teammate and rival Bob Tahri faltered in the final sprint and finished fourth.
In 5,000m qualifying this morning, 2007 world champion Bernard Lagat led all qualifiers with a fast 2:30.57 closing kilometer in the first heat Lagat, 36, who had qualified at the USA Outdoor Championships to run both the 1,500m and 5,000m here but chose only the longer event here, clocked 13:33.90 ahead of Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa (13:34.46) and Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel (13:34.48) in the first of two heats. His teammate, Galen Rupp, who finished seventh in the 10,000m on Sunday night, finished fifth and also advanced.
“There were a bunch of us coming in at 150 and also at 100 (meters to go), and I decided to go,” said Lagat who had shaved the beard he had recently been sporting. “And I felt good, too. I don’t feel like I used anything unnecessary, like kicking way too much and using up a lot of energy in there. I didn’t feel like I did that.”
Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, the defending champion from these championships in Berlin two years ago, did not start.
Britain’s Mo Farah, the silver medalist from the 10,000m here, controlled the pace in the second heat, then was edged in the final sprint by the 10,000m bronze medalist Imane Merga of Ethiopia, 13:37.96 to 13:38.03. Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma finished third.
“My legs are all right – I’ve had great medical support and great team spirit and yes I’m quite looking forward to the final,” Farah told U.K. Athletics. “I’ve got to go and rest now, get an ice bath and do every little bit I can to recover.”
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who won the 5000m title at these championships in Paris in 2003 when he was just 18, finished fourth behind Kuma and said that the heat was definitely a factor in Daegu.
“I thought it was good, but I feel a little bit tired because of it is hot, steamy, too hot. Really hot.”
In women’s 800m qualifying, Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei was the first of four women to break two minutes in the third of five heats, clocking 1:59.36. Russia’s Ekaterina Kostetskaya (1:59.61), United States’ Alysia Montano (1:59.62) and Britain’s Marilyn Okoro (1:59.74) were the others, and all advanced to Friday’s semi-finals. Also advancing amongst the medal favorites were Britain’s Jenny Meadows, Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair, Morocco’s Halima Hachlaf, Russia’s Mariya Savinova and South Africa’s Caster Semenya, the defending champion.
“It felt really easy and economical,” Meadows said after winning the first heat in 2:01.11. “Two-oh-one should do. Tomorrow night’s going to be a big one just to qualify for finals. There are more than eight great girls in the world this year.”
While most of the Jamaican fans focus on their talented sprinters, they should not overlook Kenia Sinclair for a possible medal in the 800 meters. Sinclair, 31, has ten victories this year at 800m, 1500m and the mile, and has run sub-1:59 three times this season. No Jamaican woman has ever made an 800m final at these championships.
“I’m just trying to focus on being in the finals,” Sinclair said, her chest still heaving from her race. “Just thinking positive things, only, and just put aside the (calf) injury I got.”
Sinclair was accidentally kicked in the calf during the 800m at the Meeting AREVA in Paris on July 8. She was unable to finish that race.
In the men’s 1,500m semi-finals, Asbel Kiprop of Kenya and Matthew Centrowitz of the United States won their respective heats and advanced to Saturday’s final. Nearly sent home was 2008 Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand who finished seventh in the second heat and grabbed the last of two time-qualifiers to the final. Kenya’s Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, Ethiopia’s Deresse Mekonnen, Bahrain’s Yusuf Saad Kamel (the defending champion), Morocco’s Amine Laalou and America’s Leo Manzano were amongst the medal contenders who were eliminated. Manzano strained a hamstring in the final sprint, and left the track with an ice bag taped to the back of his leg.
Middle and long distance action continues on Friday in Daegu Stadium with the women’s 800m semi-finals and the women’s 5000m final Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot hopes to win her second gold medal of these championships and successfully defend her title from Berlin two years ago.