By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon added the world title to her Olympic gold when she won a superb women’s 1,500 meters final in a white-hot London Stadium atmosphere on Monday, judging her charge to perfection and holding off the field.
Kipyegon, silver medalist 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 meters 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 traveled 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 meters, 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 meters 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 favorite 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.
(Editing by Ossian Shine and Ken Ferris)