Lille, France – For virtually the entire contest, the boys’ 1500m final was a near carbon copy of the 3000m race finished just one hour before. Then, about a metre before the finish, Teshome Dirirsa of Ethiopia made sure the earlier script was modified.
With a dramatic and perfectly-timed dip at the line that would be the envy of many a sprinter, the 17-year-old outleaned Vincent Kiprotich Mutai at the line to nab the victory in 3:39.13, just 0.04 ahead of the Kenyan to take the first victory in the event for Ethiopia in the history of these Championships.
Like his teammate William Malel Sitonik in the 3000m, Mutai controlled the race and the pace from the gun, leading the field through 400 metres in 55.45, 800 metres in 1:55.23 and 1200 metres in 2:56.23. The pace was quick, and the race behind him, fierce.
Mutai’s teammate Jonathan Kiplimo Sawe, Ethiopian No. 2 Fayidu Murad, and Yonas Habtemicael were all in lockstep behind the leader throughout, carving out a gap of some 50 metres on the rest of the field by midway.
The pack of five wasn’t reduced to four until the leaders came off the final turn, with the Eritrean first to lose touch. With about 50 metres remaining, Sawe began to drift back just a bit, leaving the remaining pair for battle for gold.
Running stride-for-stride, Mutai was forced to relent over the final stride where Dirirsa, running the race of his life, pulled ahead to gain the slightest advantage. Both were awarded with career bests.
“I won the race and set my personal best ahead of two Kenyans,” said Dirirsa. “It is a perfect day for me today.”
Reaching the line in 3:39.54, Sawe took bronze ahead of Murad’s 3:40.60. He, and Habtemicael (3:43.89), who faded to fifth, also notched personal bests. In all, ten of the 12 finalists all improved their career best times.