Matthew Centrowitz wins the 1500m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
The men’s 1500m final was one for the ages, although not in the way you might expect.
The gold medal was won in a time of 3:50.00, the slowest time since 1932, and the last time there was a US winner at this distance in the Olympics was back in 1908.
However, that will all be irrelevant, and rightly so, to Matt Centrowicz.
The two-time World Championships medallist, with a bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013, completed his collection of medals from outdoor global championships after controlling the race almost from the gun and repelling all the attacks from his rivals, especially over the final 250 metres.
"There's nothing like it, it doesn't compare to anything else I've won in my life," said Centrowitz. "Doing my victory lap, I literally kept screaming to everyone I know, 'Are you kidding me?'"
Centrowitz, surprisingly to many still only 26, towed the field through the first 400m in a sedentary 66.83 and then an even slower second lap of 69.76.
The entire field was still tightly bunched together at this point and there was no surprise that, with all the contact and jockeying for position, there was a faller. The unfortunate runner to take a tumble was the highly-rated Kenyan Ronald Kwemoi, who tripped and fell just before the runners passed the two laps to go infield display.
Kwemoi, the world U20 record-holder and still only 20, picked himself up quickly and tagged himself on to the back of the pack within the space of 40 metres – evidence of how slow they were going – but he eventually trudged in 12th and last.
After a brief stint in the lead by Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, Centrowitz got back in front again with little more than 300 metres remaining.
Behind him, three-time world champion and world leader Asbel Kiprop was starting to move up quickly down the back straight, having hung at the back of the pack and staying out of danger for nearly the whole race.
Also hovering around at the front was the defending champion from London four years ago, Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, but Centrowitz could not be budged from pole position.
The world indoor champion went through several gears around the final bend and down the home straight, and not even noted fast finishers such as Kiprop and Makhloufi could get on his shoulder as the US runner cranked up the pace.
He uncorked a 50.62 last lap to take the gold medal as Makhloufi finished fast to take the silver just 0.11 behind. New Zealand’s 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis surprised many by kicking hard to take the bronze in 3:50.24 and edge out Souleiman, as Kiprop inexplicably faded over the final 80 metres and finished sixth.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF