Laura Muir came agonisingly close, but there was to be no medal for her efforts as Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon won a breathless 1500m at the IAAF World Championships in London.
The Olympic champion fell to the floor with delight and exhaustion after her 4:02.59 run, while an astonishing finish up the inside lane from America’s Jenny Simpson saw her snatch silver in 4:02.76. South Africa’s Caster Semenya, appearing in her first major final over the distance, also made a late charge, generating just enough momentum to take bronze in 4:02.90, a mere seven hundredths of a second ahead of Muir.
The British record-holder also ended up on the floor, utterly dejected there was to be no podium appearance for her on this occasion.
Her compatriot Laura Weightman ended up in an excellent sixth, clocking 4:04.11 while world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, who had only just scraped into the final, finished last.
Muir had hit the front right from the gun as the expectant home crowd anticipated a trademark, front-running performance. It looked as if the 25-year-old was ready to push the pace and make life difficult for a field crammed with top-class talent.
Muir led through the first lap reasonably quickly, in just a shade over 65 seconds, with Simpson and Kipyegon in close attendance.
During the second lap, however, the pace slowed considerably and the field bunched up. Muir still led through 800m in 2:17.11.
It was now a wait to see who would make their move and it was the bookies’ pre-race favourite Sifan Hassan, the fastest woman in the world over 1500m this year, who decided to surge first. Kipyegon stayed close by while Simpson flew up in an attempt to cover the move as Muir was jostled but kept her composure.
In fact, the Scot looked to be in an excellent position at the bell, she and Simpson sitting right on Kipyegon’s shoulder, with Hassan out in front.
On the back straight, Hassan and Kipyegon had moved a few metres ahead, while Muir pressed the accelerator to pull away from Simpson. Semenya appeared to be out of contention a long way back in ninth. Both of those athletes, however, would still have a major say in the final result.
Entering the finishing straight Kipyegon charged and, ultimately, a fading Hassan could not match her.
The Dutchwoman and Muir had moved slightly to the outside in the frantic finish, leaving a gap to their left which would prove critical.
There were figures hurtling forward from behind. Simpson saw the space and decided to run into it, her gamble paying off handsomely, while Semenya covered the closing 300m faster than any of her competitors in 43.04.
When she was finally able to get back to her feet, the stadium screens zoomed in on Muir. She managed to muster a smile and wave to the crowd, but her pain was evident.
“I ran as hard as I could right to the line,” she said. “There was nothing I could’ve done about it when they came past me. I gave myself the best chance I could and I just wasn’t strong enough for that last 10 metres.
“I covered every move that I could have done but the other girls were just faster on the day and there is nothing I can do about it.
“I knew when I crossed the line that it had just gone. I could tell Caster (Semenya) was a fraction ahead of me. I ran as hard as I could and fourth was what I got.
“I was in the pool for two weeks (recovering from a healing stress fracture) and missed sessions for the best part of three weeks so you wonder if that would have made a difference but I had a lot of support from my coach and the British Athletics medical staff so I am very grateful I am able to be here and to compete for a medal. I’m gutted but happy to be here.”
Earlier on in the women’s 400m semi-finals, defending world champion Allyson Felix went safely through, but had to settle for second in 50.12 in her heat behind 19-year-old Bahraini Salwa Eid Naser, who clocked a national record of 50.08.
Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo won her semi-final in 50.36 ahead of Jamaican Stephenie Ann McPherson, who ran a season’s best 50.56.
American Phyllis Francis won the third heat in 50.37 from Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo (50.60), while Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica qualified for her sixth consecutive World Championships final with 50.67.
Britain’s Zoey Clark produced a personal best of 51.81, finishing seventh in her heat.
Source: Euan Crumley| AW