MOSCOW, August 14- At many major championships, the heats of the men’s 1500m has its fair share of trips, falls and shock exits. But there was none of that this morning in the first round of the event as the three men with sub-3:30 PBs won each of the three heats.
Defending champion Asbel Kiprop went in the first heat and as expected he dictated the race from the front. Going into the last lap, World indoor champion Abdalaati Iguider moved up on to Kiprop’s shoulder with the majority of the field still bunched closely together.
But Kiprop kept the challengers at bay and looked very easy in crossing the line in 3:38.15 – a time that proved to be the fastest of the day. Iguider crossed the line in second in 3:38.41, marginally ahead of USA’s Lopez Lomong and 800m bronze medallist Ayanleh Souleiman.
The fifth and sixth automatic qualifying spots were taken by Florian Carvalho of France and European champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen. In a blanket finish, the times of the following three finishers – Aman Wote of Ethiopia, Valentin Smirnov of Russia and Nick Willis of New Zealand – proved enough to advance to the semi-finals.
The only minor surprise was that European bronze medallist David Bustos, Spain’s sole entrant in what is usually a strong event for them, finished down in 11th and will take no further part.
The second and third heats played out in much the same way as the first, with large groups of athletes poised to strike at the bell.
In the second heat it was South Africa’s Johan Cronje who was in pole position with 400m to go. He was passed at the 200-metre mark by Turkey’s Ilham Tanui Ozbilen before Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat kicked with 100m to go, coasting comfortably to the finish to win in 3:39.31.
Olympic silver medallist Leo Manzano came through for second place in 3:39.39, with Ozbilen, Cronje, Germany’s Carsten Schlangen and Morocco’s Zakaria Mazouzi filling the rest of the automatic qualifying spots in a race with no time qualifiers.
Unsurprisingly, the third and final heat once again came down to a mad dash to the line in the final 200m. Nixon Chepseba succeeded in getting there first, stopping the clock in 3:38.37 with Canada’s Nate Brannen just 0.12 behind.
Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin, Chepseba’s Kenyan team-mate Bethwell Birgen, defending bronze medallist Matt Centrowitz of the USA and Germany’s Homiyu Tesfaye filled the other automatic qualifying places.
In a race where the top nine finishers crossed the line within a second of each other, France’s Bouabdellah Tahri, Britain’s Chris O’Hare and Morocco’s Mohamed Moustaoui took the last three remaining non-automatic qualifying spots.
Six of the top seven finishers from the last World Championships have safely advanced to the semi-finals and so far the Kenyan quartet looks strong as they bid to become the first nation to sweep the medals in this event.