Matthew Centrowitz finishes fourth as the U.S. brings home another distance medal.
It had been 44 years since an American had won an Olympic medal in the 1,500 meters, but all of that changed on Tuesday night when Leo Manzano of Marble Falls, Texas found another gear with 50 meters to go, propelling himself to a thrilling second-place finish at the Olympic Games in London.
Manzano, who won this event at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, crossed the finish line in 3 minutes, 34.79 seconds, less than a second behind Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, who won the race in 3:34.08. Makhloufi’s inclusion in the race is surrounded by controversy, as yesterday he was suspended from Olympic competition after failing to put forth an honest effort in his 800-meter preliminary heat, stepping off the track less than a lap into the race. The decision was overturned later in the day, however, when Makhloufi appealed the ruling, getting a doctor’s note saying that he dropped out due to a knee injury and with aggressive treatment he would be ready to compete in tonight’s 1,500m final.
The 24-year-old Makhloufi has shown remarkable improvement in a short period of time this season, beginning the year with a 3:32.94 1,500m best and improving it to 3:30.80. On Tuesday night, he took control of a tactical race with one lap to go, opening a gap on the rest of the field that he held convincingly all the way to the finish line.
The opening 400 meters was passed in 58.6 seconds as all 12 entrants were bunched tightly together. Eight hundred meters went by in 1:58.3 with the entire field, which included reigning Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, still in contention. Heading into the bell lap, Kiprop, who had been hanging at the back of the pack for much of the race, lost contact when everyone began to move with 400 meters remaining. With 200 meters to go Makhloufi was 10 meters clear of the field as no less than six runners battled for position coming off the final turn. Heading down the home straightaway both Manzano and Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco closed hard over the final 50 meters to grab second and third place, respectively. Iguider was clocked in 3:35.13, his first Olympic medal, followed closely by Matt Centrowitz of the United States, who finished just four one-hundredths of a second off the podium.
Men’s 800m Semifinals
Earlier in the day the men’s 800-meter semifinals took place. The top two finishers in each of the three semifinal heats, along with the next two fastest times, advanced to Thursday night’s final.
In heat 1, Abubaker Kaki of the Sudan won in 1:44.51. Botswana’s Nigel Amos was second in 1:44.54. Heat 2 was won by world-record holder David Rudisha, who led from wire-to-wire to finish in 1:44.35. Andrew Osagie of Great Britain was second in 1:44.74, while Nick Symmonds of the United States finished third in 1:44.87, which was good enough for one of the two time qualifiers to the final. Heat 3 was won by Mohammad Aman of Ethiopia in 1:44.34. He was followed across the line by Kenya’s Timothy Kitum in 1:44.63. Duane Solomon of the U.S. was third in 1:44.93 to grab the second time qualifier for Thursday’s final.