Here’s a tactical recap of today’s 1500m and 800m finals.
I didn’t expect this to be a very tactical race because the two favorites Hassan and Dibaba had both shown a preference for long 500m sprints in the heats and semifinals. In a 500m sprint everyone has plenty of time to make full use of their remaining energy reserves, so it doesn’t actually matter much if one starts the sprint from a red position or a green one.
Still, the jog started so slowly that this actually seemed like a tactical race for awhile. The most interesting tactical observation is that Hassan was from the start completely oblivious to where Dibaba was and what she was doing. Hassan has the chance to start following on Dibaba’s heels immediately after the start, but instead she opts to stay in lane 1 while Dibaba wisely moves a little bit further out.
As they go through the first lap in 1.17 Hassan still doesn’t realize that she could just as well run this slowly on the outside. When Dibaba moves forward after the 600m mark Hassan still jogs along in lane 1 without a care in the world. Perhaps Hassan thought Dibaba wouldn’t start her sprint until the 1000m mark. She now has to work her way past ten opponents at high speed, which certainly must have been a costly exercise.
As for the other athletes, Dibaba’s move to the front pretty nullifies their tactics as they do an all-out 800m sprint. Many of them were more alert to Dibaba’s movements than Hassan, but the only one who was able to benefit from this tactical alertness was Kipyegon, who saves more energy and is able to overtake Hassan on the final straight.
As expected Tuka willingly stays behind and takes the last place in the start. Rudisha leads the first lap in 54 seconds, a very sensible pace. As I mentioned in my semifinals recap, a faster pace would have made it easier for Tuka to move up on the second lap. At the 500m mark Rudisha does make a mistake by not accelerating immediately. His reluctance to accelerate almost gives Tuka the opportunity to overtake the entire group and move to the front, but the athletes stuck behind Rudisha coax him to start a full sprint just in time to leave Tuka a few meters behind, which was enough for Rudisha to secure victory on the final straight. Ksczczot patiently waits behind Rudisha in lane 1 in the sprint, which probably saves his silver medal. Any attempt to move outward in the sprint would have dropped him back to third.
As for the other athletes, Bosse clearly makes error on the 300-400 straight as he lets Ksczczot pass him on the inside. Ksczczot follows Rudisha from there and earns himself the silver while Bosse remains behind Ksczczot the entire way. Bosse should have recognized that he will be able to sprint effectively from lane 1 if his right behind Rudisha. He had no reason to move towards lane 2 at the end of the first lap.