Olympic champion, Asbel Kiprop in Heat 1 was the first to seal his place with a second finish before Commonwealth titleholder, Silas Kiplagat and Diamond League winner, Nixon Chepseba sealed their places in the second race in coming home runner-up and fourth on Sunday night.
With reports that he was carrying an injury, Kiprop sensibly went out in front and deliberately slowed down the pace and held on until Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi charged past him in the final curve and sprinted for victory in 3:42.24 against the Beijing and Worlds winners’ 3:42.92.
“I have a slight strain with my hamstring but there’s nothing to worry about,” Kiprop said at the Mixed Zone without delving further on the issue that will give the chasing pack to his title renewed hope they can topple him.
Kiprop led through 400m in 1:03.73, crossed 800m in 2:07.20 and was still ahead at 1200m in 3:03.16 in a demonstration of the slow coach speed he adopted in a well calculated strategy to reserve his energy towards holding on to his title.
He however, had to stretch his legs 50m from the line as rivals came abreast and threatened to swallow him in but the Daegu and African gold medallist who commanded the inside lane throughout held them off.
Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin (3:42.93), America’s Leonel Manzano (3:42.94) and Henrik Ingebrigtsen (3:43.26) completed the top five in the slower semi to book their places in the medal race.
Makhloufi, whose leg was bandaged, had to be assisted off the track after his win.
Having been almost spiked off from London 2012 by a trip by American Matt Centrowitz in the heats, Diamond League winner and Olympics debutant, Chepseba, took no chances, aping Kiprop and going to the lead from the start.
He went on to pass 400m in 56.03 as his brisk pace ensured the two fastest losers for the final would be from his race and passed the two-lap mark in 1:54.67 before Kiplagat joined him in the lead as Chepseba headed the race in 2:52.76 at 1200m.
As they came for the penultimate bend, Morroco’s hope Abdelaati Iguider charged through and sped off for the finish, arriving there in 3:33.99 as Kiplagat (3:34.60) and New Zealand’s Olympics silver winner, Nick Willis (3:34.70) edged ahead of Chepseba (3:34.89) to take second and third.
Centrowitz (3:34.90) who was adjudged to have impeded Chepseba unfairly in the heats where he finished ninth took the last automatic qualifying place with Kenyan born Turk Ilham Tanui Özbilen (3:35.18) and another former son of the East African nation Belal Mansoor Ali (3:35.40) of Bahrain (Born John Yego) qualifying as fastest losers.
The Kenyans will be favourite for the top medal with Kiprop (3:28.88), Chepseba (3:29.63) and Kiplagat (3:29.77) occupying the first three slot in the 2012 world list.
Kipchoge Keino (1972) the retired legend and chair of National Olympics Committee, Peter Rono (1988) and Noah Ngeny (2000) the Olympics record holder (3:32.07) preceded Kiprop as the men 1500m winners from Kenya in one of the blue ribband races of track and field.