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BEIJING — Genzebe Dibaba saved her best running for the end for the women’s 1500m final at the IAAF World Championships.
The American duo of Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson found themselves at the front of the pack after the gun, and decided to take it slowly. Very slowly. They ran the first 400 meters in 77 seconds, not even the pace of a good high school race.
“It just kind of happened that way,” said Rowbury, who would finish seventh.
The pace picked up after 400 meters, but it was with two laps to go that things got really interesting. Dibaba shot ahead, running a 57.3-second circuit from 800m to 1200m, taking Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan and Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum with her.
But Simpson, the 2011 world champion, could not join the battle. She had her left shoe stepped on, pulling it off. She was forced to run the last 700 meters of the race with one shoe.
“I was jogging along with everyone else, then I kind of paid a price for it,” said Simpson, who finished second to last, ripping the skin off part of the bottom of her right foot. “Dibaba made a big move and I got shoved into traffic. My shoe even ripped. I got spiked bad enough that it totally ripped when it came off. I was just unlucky.”
But not Dibaba. She did not let up, running an eye-popping 1:57 for the final 800m to finish in the slowest winning time ever at these championships: 4:08.09. Kipyegon got second (4:08.96) and Hassan third (4:09.34). Rowbury finished seventh.
“As you know, my preparation was very good,” Dibaba said through a translator. “I think that I did the right thing, that my expectations were right.”
Dibaba is not finished competing here. On Thursday morning, she’ll line up for the preliminary round of the 5000m, where she is also a favorite to win gold.
“The history is two golds from my sister,” she said, referring to big sister Tirunesh Dibaba who, in this same stadium, won gold medals at both 5000m and 10,000m at the 2008 Olympics. “Then my mind is made up. I have to do both.”
Elsewhere at Worlds, David Rudisha claimed gold in the 800m. The 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder took the field through 400 meters in a pedestrian 54.17—unlike his usual strategy of going hard from the start—before leaving his competitors behind in the second half. He won the race in 1:45.84