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Women's 1500 Final Filled with Drama

By Steve Ritchie / Special to the Statesman Journal
August 15, 2013


Luzhniki Stadium

Moscow, Russia - For a fan of track and field, the women's 1500 meter finals had it all at the World Championships at Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday night.

There was the overwhelming favorite, Abeba Aregawi, a native Ethiopian now running for Sweden. The likeable defending champ, Jenny Simpson of the US. The unsung former Duck, Zoe Buckman of Australia. The 17-year-old phenom, Mary Cain of the US, coached by Alberto Salazar.

Oh, and three Kenyan runners, an Ethiopian and a Moroccan - all talented enough to win the race.

The anticipation grew as the runners continued to run warm-up strides on the backstretch as high jump winner Bohdan Bondarenko of the Ukraine took three world record attempts (he missed on all three), which pushed the start of the 1500 beyond the scheduled time.

When the gun was fired, Simpson went almost immediately to the lead. Aregawi stayed close, as Simpson led through 1200 meters. Buckman was running on the inside, four spots or so back through most of the race. Cain, meanwhile, was in the back of the pack, five meters behind the field with one lap to go.

Abeba Aregawi

With 300 meters left, Aregawi made her move into first. Simpson responded, moving up on her shoulder, but lost touch on the final curve. Down the homestretch, the former Colorado Buffalo gained ground, but couldn't catch the leader, finishing in 4:02.67, .32 behind Aregawi. Helen Obiri of Kenya took the bronze in 4:03.86.

Buckman held her own on the final stretch to take seventh in 4:05.77, and Cain passed two runners with a strong last lap, though her time of 4:07.19 was more than two seconds off her best.

The 2011 champ Simpson said, "I think the last 200 I was almost unconscious. I just kept telling myself, just run as hard as you can. . . Even when Aregawi went past me I kept thinking, 'you can win this, you can win this."

With Aregawi running a sub-60 second last lap, it wasn't to be.

Never a factor in the race, Cain spoke bluntly about her performance afterwards. The high school senior (Bronxville, NY) discounted the idea that she should have been just happy to be in a world championship final.

"I'm not even like sad," Cain said. "I'm just like angry. That is a good thing and this whole meet was all a good learning experience. . . I know many kids my age would just die to do this. But I'm a tough person and I expect a lot from myself. I don't know what happened out there. I really don't.

Mary Cain

"A lot of people didn't even think I would get out of the heats including myself. I know I can be faster. I feel so good. I think later tonight I'm going to be really, really angry in a good way and it's going to help to make me motivated."

After winning both her first round and semifinal races, Buckman turned in a very respectable performance in the final. She said her three strong races here would help her a great deal in the future.

"I got through the rounds at these championships and proved myself to be a contender," Buckman said. "It is a platform to build from because it gives me more confidence and ambition to get back into it.

"My goal coming here was to make the finals and I did that. I'm really happy to get a PR here. I'm now one of the best in the world. Knowing that is going to help me on those hilly 90 minute (training) runs on Sundays. I'm only 24 years old and I've got a lot of years left."

Notes: . . . Evan Jager ran a strong race in the 3000 meter steeplechase at the World Championships on Thursday evening, but couldn't stay with the leaders on the final lap. Jager, who finished in 8:08.67, was with the lead group of five runners with 400 meters to go but couldn't match the closing speed of Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi and Consesius Kipruto. Kemboi won in 8:06.01 and Kipruto was second in 8:06.37 . . . Jehue Gordon of Trinidad & Tobago and Michael Tinsley of the U.S. battled stride for stride down the homestretch of the 400 hurdles. They both leaned at the tape, but Gordon got the win by .01 seconds in 47.69. He said later, "My heart crossed the line before my body."

 
 

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