By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Asbel Kiprop failed in his bid for a fourth consecutive 1,500 meters gold medal at the World Championships on Sunday – but Kenya still celebrated a dazzling one-two with new champion Elijah Manangoi leading home his friend Timothy Cheruiyot.
Manangoi, the fastest man in the world this year, sped past his young training partner on the home straight of the last individual track event to take the title in 3 minutes 33.61 seconds, just ahead of Cheruiyot (3:33.99).
Kiprop, who had briefly threatened to make it a Kenyan clean sweep, found the pace too hot on the last lap, fading into ninth place in 3:37.24.
It was a fairly tame attempt to emulate the four straight metric mile world golds of Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj from the enigmatic 28-year-old Kiprop, who had one of his off-days.
Norway’s European champion Filip Ingebrigtsen snatched the bronze, throwing himself across the line to just oust Spain’s Adel Mechaal for the medal by 0.18 seconds in 3:34.53.
Manangoi’s first major title had come with a little help from the master Kiprop, from whom he reckoned he had learned so much over the years.
Two years ago in Beijing, Manangoi had burst through from fifth to second over the last 20 meters to take the silver behind Kiprop.
Yet after a barren Olympic year in 2016 when he suffered from illness and injury, the 24-year-old looked rejuvenated this year, coming into the championships off the back of a fine win in the Monaco Diamond League meeting.
“We have had very good champions in the event over the years so it is a proud moment for me to win this title for my country,” he said.
Yet though he may not have realized it, for all of Kenya’s rich background in the event, only Manangoi and Kiprop have won the world metric mile title for their country. The Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat won for the USA in 2007.
“I knew I was in pretty good form and thought I could make the podium but to win this gold is wonderful,” added Manangoi.
All the hard work for his victory, though, had been carved out by the 21-year-old Kenyan champion Cheruiyot, who took up the running on the second lap and stretched out the field to breaking point with a couple of 56-second laps.
With the three Kenyans in a line on the final back straight, Ingebrigtsen muscled his way into contention and, as Kiprop began to struggle as he has done too often this summer, it became a two-man duel between his less heralded compatriots.
With 50 meters left, Manangoi finally battled his way past for gold while Ingebrigtsen toppled over the line as he felt the fast-finishing Mechaal coming up close behind.
“It was just such a good race and I’m so pleased to be a world champion. I had a difficult race as Timothy (Cheruiyot) raced very well but I had that extra strength,” said Manangoi.
Cheruiyot added: “I am happy we [the Kenyan athletes] prepared well for this. Me and Elijah [Manangoi] train together and he is my friend, so I am happy for him and for me.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond/Rex Gowar)