This analysis is based on my guidebook to 1500m tactics, available here on thcson.com. In this post I will analyze the women’s final in the London Olympics, which can be viewed on YouTube:
Race video on YouTube
Season bests and previous heats give the following classification for this heat:
Favorites: Tomashova, Obiri, Aregawi, Alptekin, Kostetskaya
Average contestants: Rowbury, Kareiva, Klocova, Bulut, Jamal, Uceny, Dobriskey, Weightman
Underdogs: So many runners ran fast in the second semifinal that nobody really stood out as an underdog in the final.
The race started slowly but the pace increased gradually: 400m 1.15,12 and 800m 2.23,97
This was perhaps the most calm 1500m start in these Olympics. Bulut and the other inside and middle starters end up in red or blue positions behind her. All outside starters take green positions as expected. Nobody makes a tactical move.
It seems like Bulut did not intend to be a pacemaker at this stage, so she slows the pace to a crawl in the first curve in the inside lane. This isn’t an effective way to exit the front position, as I explained in my guide. Nobody else wants to lead, so eventually Bulut decides to go to the front after all. Perhaps Bulut reasoned that she won’t be any worse off leading the field at this pace than if she’s boxed into the red queue.
Tomasova kept a fast pace both in her heat and her semifinal, but she is now unable to do so. I assume she would have liked to use her favorite strategy in the final as well, but she gets boxed in from the beginning and Bulut’s slowdown in prevents her from moving outward until after the 800m point. This shows how crucial starting position can be. In order to take get into the green queue Tomashova would have had to either start fast enough to beat the outside starters or start slowly enough to take the last position in the green queue and move up from there.
Bulut increase the pace a little in the second lap, but it is still remarkable that nobody changes positions. Weightman and Dobriskey don’t move up on the outside from 400-700m. Even more surprisingly, pre-race favorite Obiri remains at the back of the field even though she could surely have move up to the front with ease on the 600-700 straight.
Bulut seems to increase the pace again at 800m and the group finally starts to become a bit restless. Tomashova forces her way further out, but remains partly boxed in behind Uceny.
At 1000m Jamal, Kostetskaya and Uceny are all in ideal striking position in the green queue. It’s surprising that Aregawi and Obiri don’t try harder to move upward on the 1000-1100 straight. Their positions at the back of the green queue expose them to a lot of extra distance in the 1100-1200 curve with little tactical benefit.
On the 1000-1100 straight Rowbury makes a serious tactical mistake when she leaves an open gap in the red queue which Alptekin proceeds to fill. Tomashova remains boxed into a blue position. She is freed from the box when Uceny’s unfortunate fall disrupts the green queue on the outside, but the pace is already so fast that she declines the opportunity to move outward.
Just before the 1200m point Alptekin gets out her red position, apparently by utilizing the gap left by Kostetskaya when she’s unable to keep up with Jamal in the green queue.
Aregawi comes storming on the outside as the sprint begins, but her loss of rhythm after Uceny’s fall is costly in the sprint. Bulut puts together an amazing sprint considering that she led the race for so long. All in all there weren’t any tactical moves to discuss in this sprint.
Overall the women’s final was noteworthy mostly for its lack of change in positions. The inside starters were in the red queue, middle starters in blue positions and outside starters in the green queue pretty much all the way from the start to 1100m. This shows how important it can be to consider your starting positions in strategic pre-race plans. Inside starters who prefer to be in the green queue, as Tomashova probably did, may have to do a deliberately slow start and then work their way up from the back of the field. With a normal start they may find themselves boxed in for several laps.
Another thing to note is Alptekin’s good luck in the final lap. She’s in the blue queue just before 1100m, but then Rowbury leaves a gap in the red queue so that Alptekin can run the 1100-1200 curve in lane 1. Kostetskaya then fades on the outside just as the sprint begins, allowing Alptekin to break out of the box. If Aregawi had been in the green queue instead of Kostetskaya, Alptekin’s options would have much more restricted at least in the first stage of the sprint.