Beijing 2015: 1500m Women semifinals

Here’s a tactical recap of yesterday’s 1500m semifinals.

Race videos

Semifinal 1

Semifinal 2

Analyses

Semifinal 1

Hassan performs a very curious start as she deliberately pushes into lane 1 and gets stuck in a red position. I wonder why she prefers so strongly to be in a red position when she could easily have taken a green one instead. It will be interesting to see if she makes the same mistake in the final.

The pace is very slow, but nobody moves in the first lap of the jog stage. On the 600-700 straight Sado takes the free pass to the front of the green queue which was on offer. It’s worth noting how easily she overtakes the entire group. Seyaum could easily have follower her compatriot to the front, but decides to stay at the back of the green queue instead. On the 800-900 Sado does not protect her position against Aregawi and Rowbury, which is clearly a mistake the surge is just about to begin. Sado would probably had fared better in the sprint if she has just taken the lead at this point.

The underdog Ennaoui has led the entire way and is clearly disadvantaged when the surge begins. The athletes in red positions behind her have to maneuver past her on the straight, but everyone manages to do so surprisingly easily. There’s a lot of lateral movement on the 1000-1100 straight as Hassan initiates her sprint and everyone gets set to follow her. Hassan actually had to slow down and lengthen the gap to the group ahead of her before she had enough space to move outward. This is an inefficient tactic and she clearly needs to find her way to a green position in the final.

With the favorite now in the lead, everyone accelerates to follow her. Gallagher moves out and actually overtakes the entire group in the 1100-1200 bend! She’s almost out in lane 3, so she probably runs 5 meters further in the bend than her opponents on the outside. Needless to say, that’s a costly way to sprint and she pays the price in the final 200. Sado gets held up by Gallagher in the 1300-1400 bend, but Akkaoui performs a very good sprint in the inside lane. She illustrates well how much benefit a little bit of saved energy can bring on the final straight.

Semifinal 2

Simpson nicely avoids taking the lead in the start as she leaves just enough room for Koster to come through on the inside as they enter the bend. Just like in the first semifinal, the field of athletes is quite static in the first lap of the jog stage. On the 600-700 straight Muir makes a good move forward just like Sado did in the previous race.

Terzic, Cichocka and Simpson then challenge Muir in the green queue on the 800-900 straight. Simpson is a bit passive when she lets Terzic, Cichocka overtake her and she actually works her way past them both in the 900-1000 bend. Dibaba initiates the sprint on the 1000-1100 straight and there’s no tactics in this race after that.

Looking ahead to the final, both favorites Dibaba and Hassan like to stay at the back of the pack and accelerate strongly at the 1000m mark. If they follow the same strategy in the final there won’t be much need for tactics because the race will be a high-speed open sprint over the final 500m. For the other athletes this means that positions won’t be particularly important. During the surge athletes in red positions do not have to worry about their position because they know that the group will break apart soon after the 1000m mark. 500m is a long sprint distance and there will be plenty of time to catch opponents on the final lap. So an energy-conserving tactic in lane 1 might earn someone a bronze medal. The two favorites will probably escape regardless of all tactics.

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