Olympic Men’s 1500 — Chalk One Up For The Kid

Young Jakob Ingebrigtsen was still pulling away at the finish; Josh Kerr almost caught fading favorite Timothy Cheruiyot at the line. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

A DOZEN TIMES SINCE June of ’17 young Jakob Ingebrigtsen had met world champion Timothy Cheruiyot over 1500 or a mile, never once besting the Kenyan who World Ranked No. 1 in ’18 and ’19.

In 5 of their 7 most recent meetings since July of ’19, though, the Norwegian prodigy placed 2nd to Cheruiyot, whose 4th-place finish at the Kenyan Trials broke a string of 11 consecutive 1500 wins since May of ’19.

You’d have been right beforehand to predict this would play out as a match race between the two because that’s how it went down.

Ingebrigtsen, all of 20 years and 322 days old when the gun fired for the final, prevailed as the second-youngest-ever 1500 gold medalist, and in Olympic Record time — 3:28.32 to Cheruiyot’s 3:29.01. The time moved Ingebrigtsen to No. 8 on the all-time world list.

6 of the first 8 finishers — including bronze medalist Josh Kerr at 3:29.05 — set PRs and 7 ran under 3:32.07, which had since Noah Ngeny’s victory in Sydney been the Olympic Record until the semis here.

Among these men Oregon frosh Cole Hocker —at 20 years and 62 days even younger than the winner — placed 6th in 3:31.40 (an extended-season collegiate best) as the youngest American finalist since 19-year-old Marty Liquori placed 12th in ’68.

Before the final the rounds had yielded consequential results. Indoor WR holder Samuel Tefera failed to get out of the first heat. Heat II saw ’19 WC bronze medalist Marcin Lewandowski get tripped up and stumble home more than a minute behind section winner Abel Kipsang. The Pole was advanced on appeal but DNFed his semi with a calf injury.

Semi I went to Briton Jake Wightman in 3:33.48 as Hocker showed he’d come to play with a 3:33.87 PR in 2nd in front of Cheruiyot and Ollie Hoare, Australia’s and Wisconsin’s ’18 NCAA champ.

Semi II went brutally fast for a Q race. Kipsang took it in OR time, 3:31.65, from Ingebrigtsen (3:32.13) with 7 bettering 3:33. One who didn’t was defending champ Matthew Centrowitz, a non-advancing 9th at 3:33.69.

“I think I should have settled in a bit more and gone for the ride,” said Centro, who bounced around midpack, sat 9th at 1200 and then had nothing in the last 300. “I found myself fighting to get in position. I was never really in position, I was in lane 2 and lane 3 at some points. So when they are running the Olympic Record in heats, you can’t be in lane 2 and 3, wasting energy like that.

“There really is no excuse with fitness or injuries. I think it was just poor execution and not being able to relax. I was just fighting myself the whole way.”

Third American Yared Nuguse was forced to withdraw before the heats with a quad strain.

No smart punter was betting on a tactical soirée in the final — not least because Cheruiyot had won the ’19 WC running the field off its feet from the first lap, crossing in 3:29.29 more than 2 seconds ahead of London ’12 gold medalist Taoufik Makhloufi. Makhloufi stayed home from Tokyo, injured.

Cheruiyot figured to run and gun. In the offing, so did Ingebrigtsen. He buzzed through the first lap in 56.2 daring all to come get him. Almost immediately, Cheruiyot did.

The Kenyan jumped ahead and led from 500 onward — not unlike Doha. Except with Ingebrigtsen and Aussie Recordholder Stewart McSweyn right behind and Kipsang also close.

Cranking 55.5 and 55.4 for the next two circuits, Cheruiyot heated up the track. Splitting 1:51.76 at 800 and 2:47.24 at 1200, at the latter checkpoint Cheruiyot led Ingebrigtsen by a step with a gap of about 5m back to Kipsang in 3rd, and the leader kept pouring it on.

Ingebrigtsen, though, kept up, and halfway through the last bend he passed, stole a glance at the top-of-straight videoboard and pulled away down the stretch. Sprinting with upright carriage, twice he peeked over his right shoulder to be sure but when he hit the line he was 5m in front.

He had covered the last 200 in 27.1, the final 100 in 13.6 – blast fast running off an already torrid pace.

Kerr’s dash to bronze astounded, too. The ’17 NCAA champ for Arkansas worked his way from 6th with 500 left to 4th on Kipsang’s shoulder at the bell, then tore the second Kenyan up down the final straight. Kerr’s finishing figures? 13.7, 27.2, 54.2, 1:49.9.

Young Hocker also blitzed at the end. Just 9th at the bell, 7th with 200 left, going down the stretch he metamorphosed McSweyn’s 2-step lead on him into a nearly 3m advantage at the end. The Duck’s 13.9, 27.4 finish came at higher velocity than all but Ingebrigtsen and Kerr.

Afterwards the winner —Norway’s first in the 1500 and second in Tokyo after Karsten Warholm — revealed he had not discussed a race plan with father/coach Gjert beforehand.

“The thing is that there’s no tactics,” he said. “Of course, we all have our preferences of what we want to do and how we’d like the perfect race to be. At the same time we all have to make decisions based on what’s happening in the race.

“I just wanted to win.”

Asked about the last 150 in which he was forced to give up the lead, Cheruiyot said, “When he passed me I didn’t respond because I felt some little pain in my right hamstring. Jakob is a good racer, a strong guy, young and [I] hope in the future we can run a World Record.”

Cheruiyot had raced with a bracelet on his right wrist. After the finish he gave it to said strong, young guy: “I said, ‘If someone beats me today I’ll give my bracelet to him.’ It was a way to congratulate him.”


MEN’S 1500 RESULTS

(August 07) (temperature 82F/28C; humidity 81%)

1. Jakob Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 3:28.32 NR (8, x W)

(56.2, 55.8 [1:52.0], 55.5 [2:47.5], 40.8)

(13.6, 27.1, 40.8, 54.4, 1:50.1, 2:17.8, 2:46.3)

2. Timothy Cheruiyot (Ken) 3:29.01

(56.4, 55.4 [1:51.8], 55.5 [2:47.3], 41.7)

(14.1, 28.0, 41.7, 55.4, 1:51.1, 2:18.7, 2:46.8);

3. Josh Kerr (GB) 3:29.05 PR

(57.3, 55.9 [1:53.2], 55.2 [2:48.4], 40.7)

(13.7, 27.2, 40.7, 54.2, 1:49.9, 2:17.8, 2:46.2);

4. Abel Kipsang (Ken) 3:29.56 PR

(14.3, 27.9, 41.4, 54.8, 1:51.0, 2:18.6, 2:46.4);

5. Adel Mechaal (Spa) 3:30.77 PR

(14.4, 28.3, 42.1, 55.6, 1:51.4, 2:19.2, 2:47.8);

6. Cole Hocker (US) 3:31.40 PR (AL)

(extended-season CR; old—3:33.07 Kip Cheruiyot’ [Mt. St. Mary’s] ’86; old e-s AmCR 3:33.1 Jim Ryun [Ks] ’67)

(57.4, 56.4 [1:53.8], 56.5 [2:50.3], 41.1)

(13.9, 27.4, 41.1, 54.8, 1:51.8, 2:19.6, 2:48.4)

7. Stewart McSweyn (Aus) 3:31.91

(14.7, 29.1, 43.5, 57.6, 1:53.5, 2:21.2, 2:49.5);

8. Michał Rozmys (Pol) 3:32.67 PR

(14.6, 28.7, 42.7, 56.3, 1:53.6);

9. Jake Heyward (GB) 3:34.43

(14.3, 28.7, 43.1, 57.5, 1:54.9);

10. Jake Wightman (GB) 3:35.09

(15.2, 30.6, 45.4, 59.6, 1:56.1);

11. Ollie Hoare (Aus) 3:35.79

(14.5, 29.6, 44.7, 59.0, 1:57.0);

12. Charles Grethen (Lux) 3:36.80

(15.7, 30.5, 45.2, 59.5, 1:57.0);

13. Ignacio Fontes (Spa) 3:38.56

(15.3, 30.6, 45.6, 60.1, 1:58.5).

HEATS (August 03)

I–1. Ismael Debjani (Bel) 3:36.00; 2. Cheruiyot 3:36.01; 3. Hoare 3:36.09; 4. Hocker 3:36.16; 5. Abdelatif Sadiki (Mor) 3:36.23; 6. Rozmys 3:36.28; 7. Kerr 3:36.29; 8. Fontes 3:36.95; 9. Samuel Tefera (Eth) 3:37.78; 10. Filip Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 3:38.02; 11. Amos Bartelsmeyer (Ger) 3:38.36; 12. István Szögi (Hun) 3:38.79; 13. Abraham Guem (SSD) 3:40.86 PR; 14. Alexis Miellet (Fra) 3:41.23; 15. Adam Ali Musab (Qat) 3:42.55; 16. Felisberto De Deus (TLS) 3:51.03 NR.

II–1. Kipsang 3:40.68; 2. Matthew Centrowitz (US) 3:41.12; 3. Wightman 3:41.18; 4. Azeddine Habz (Fra) 3:41.24; 5. Samuel Abate (Eth) 3:41.63; 6. Grethen 3:41.90; 7. Jye Edwards (Aus) 3:42.62; 8. Sadik Mikhou (Bhr) 3:42.87 (subsequent doping charge); 9. Sam Tanner (NZ) 3:43.22; 10. Ali Udou Hassan (Som) 3:43.96 PR; 11. Anas Essayi (Mor) 3:45.92; 12. Jesús Gómez (Spa) 3:47.27 (advanced on appeal); 13. Thiago André (Bra) 3:47.71; 14. Benjamin Enzema (EqG) 3:48.17; 15. Marcin Lewandowski (Pol) 4:43.96 (advanced on appeal);… dnf—Abdirahman Saeed Hassan (Qat).

III–1. Heyward 3:36.14; 2. Teddese Lemi (Eth) 3:36.26; 3. McSweyn 3:36.39; 4. Ingebrigtsen 3:36.49; 5. Robert Farken (Ger) 3:36.61; 6. Mechaal 3:36.74; 7. Nick Willis (NZ) 3:36.88; 8. Andrew Coscoran (Ire) 3:37.11; 9. Ayanleh Souleiman (Dji) 3:37.25; 10. Charles Simotwo (Ken) 3:37.26; 11. Baptiste Mischler (Fra) 3:37.53; 12. Kalle Berglund (Swe) 3:49.43; 13. Paulo Amotun Lokoro (SSD) 3:51.78;… dnf—Ronald Musagala (Uga), Soufiane El Bakkali (Mor);… dnc—Yared Nuguse (US).

SEMIS (August 05)

I–1. Wightman 3:33.48; 2. Hocker 3:33.87 PR; 3. Cheruiyot 3:33.95; 4. Hoare 3:34.35; 5. Fontes 3:34.49; 6. Simotwo 3:34.61; 7. Lemi 3:34.81; 8. Farken 3:35.21; 9. Willis 3:35.41; 10. Coscoran 3:35.84; 11. Debjani 3:42.18;… dnf—Lewandowski, Souleiman.

II–1. Kipsang 3:31.65 PR (fastest-ever prelim) (OR);

2. Ingebrigtsen 3:32.13; 3. Kerr 3:32.18; 4. Mechaal 3:32.19 PR; 5. McSweyn 3:32.54; 6. Heyward 3:32.82 PR; 7. Grethen 3:32.86 NR; 8. Sadiki 3:33.59 PR (fastest-ever non-qualifier); 9. Centrowitz 3:33.69; 10. Habz 3:35.12; 11. Abate 3:37.66; 12. Gómez 3:44.46; 13. Rozmys 3:54.53 (advanced on appeal). ◻︎