The big news before the start was the absence of the marginal pre-championship favourite. Ayanleh Souleiman, the 2014 champion and 2018 world leader, was unable to make it to Birmingham from Djibouti – not because of the Arctic weather but because of visa problems.
That left Abdelaati Iguider as the new number one contender and the only man seeking to emulate Hicham El Guerrouj and Deresse Mekonnen as a two-time winner of the title. The 30-year-old Moroccan triumphed in Istanbul in 2012 and his pedigree was clear to see as controlled the first of three heats from the front, prevailing in 3:40.13.
Only the first two were guaranteed places in Sunday’s final and the scramble for that slot was won by 2014 silver medallist Aman Wote, the Ethiopian holding off the fast-finishing US athlete Ben Blankenship by 0.03 in 3:40.20.
Still, the race proved to be the fastest and all three non-automatic qualifiers came from it: third placed Blankenship (3:40.23), fourth placed Pole Marcin Lewandowski (3:40.70) and fifth placed Briton Chris O’Hare (3:42.46).
Ethiopia opted to field Wote and 18-year-old Samuel Tefera as their pairing in the event, overlooking world junior silver medallist Teresa Tolosa, an impressive winner at the World Indoor Tour meet in Torun. Terefa justified his selection, comfortably holding off Kenyan’s Vincent Kibet to take heat two in 3:44.00.
Kibet resisted a challenge from Australian champion Ryan Gregson to secure the second spot in 3:44.26. Gregson (third in 3:44.44) and former European indoor champion Jakub Holusa of the Czech Republic (fourth in 3:45.85) both failed to make the cut.
In the absence of Souleiman, Britain’s Jake Wightman stole the show in the final three, bolting decisively past Benjamin Enzema of Equatorial Guinea with 300 metres to go and surging to an assured victory in 3:47.23. Craig Engels of the US held off Brahim Kaazouzi to take what proved to be the final qualifying place, edging out the Moroccan by 0.10 in 3:47.55.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF