Beijing 2015: Men 1500m round 1

Here’s a tactical recap of today’s 1500m heats.

Race videos

I haven’t yet located good race videos.

Analyses

Heat 1

The most important tactical lessons in a slow first heat come from two masters of 1500m tactics, Centrowitz and Makhloufi. Let’s see what they did.

Both Centrowitz and Makhloufi get a fairly quick start to the front but allow the fastest inside starter to take the lead. Mahkloufi falls back to a yellow position when Centrowitz past him. The pace is slow, so many athletes from the green queue move forward on each straight, as they should. When Mechaal overtakes Centrowitz at the 500m mark Centrowitz doesn’t fight back because it might force him to take the lead. Centrowitz falls back to first position in the yellow queue, which drops Makhloufi one step further back. Makhloufi was previously running behind a favorite, but now that favorite is stuck behind an underdog. Makhloufi doesn’t like it and immediately starts to make his way outward toward the green queue with a little bit of pushing.

Grice moves past Makhloufi just before the 700-800 bend, but Makhloufi counters by overtaking Grice in the bend. The pace picks up a little bit but is still only about 15 seconds / 100m, so he doesn’t waste much energy in doing so. Centrowitz fell back deliberately on the 600-700 in order to move back to the green queue and he also goes a long way out in the 700-800 bend where he follows Makhloufi.

The surge stage now begins and neither Centrowitz nor Makhloufi intend to give their green positions now. Wolde tries to overtake Centrowitz on the 1000-1100 straight but Centrowitz quickly moves forward to prevent it and overtakes Hiss Bachir while doing so. Makhloufi recognizes that opponents are moving up quickly on the outside and accelerates together with the leader Manangoi. After that it’s an open sprint for Makhloufi and Centrowitz and they easily secure qualification.

There sprint is surprisingly much room in the sprint even for the athletes who start from the back of the group. Especially Bensghir gets lucky on the final straight when both Wolde and Hiss Bachir fade away, which opens a clear path for him on the inside. Bensghir was in 13th position at the 1300m mark. This once again shows that there’s always hope in a middle distance sprint as long as you have enough energy for one more acceleration.

Heat 2

Kiprop has made his share of tactical mistakes in the past, but in this race his strategy is exactly right. He stays clear of trouble at the back, knowing that he only needs to move up to sixth position in order to qualify.

It’s interesting to see how some of the other semifinal qualifiers ran this race. The favorite Wote set the pace up front and easily kept everyone at bay until the finish. The underdog Hannes started following Wote when the took the lead at 300m and benefited greatly from his pacemaking and effective sprint. Musagala could also have followed stayed behind Wote but was far too passive and fell back when opponents overtook him in the green queue.

Manzano stayed in the green queue the entire way and covered quite a bit of extra distance. It looks like he has to work really hard in the final sprint, so he might have to prioritize energy saving rather than control in the semifinals. And finally, Matthews is boxed close to the back of the red queue for almost the entire race, but just manages to sprint into the top six. Matthews also benefited from Wote’s pacemaking work because any lead changes up front would have dropped him further back in the red queue and probably forced him to move into the green queue and take on extra distance at some point.

Heat 3

The athletes in heat 3 presumably knew that the fastest lsoer from the previous two heats ran 3.40, so with a little bit of teamwork 12 of them should easily have been able to qualify. Perhaps language barriers prevented them from coming to mutual agreement before the race because since there wasn’t much margin for error at the end, but 11 athletes still qualified for the next stage. In other words, there would not be much point in analyzing race tactics in this heat.

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