Faith Kipyegon remembers all too well what it’s like trying to chase down Genzebe Dibaba.
The Kenyan finished second to the world record-holder in the 1500m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 as Dibaba was at the peak of her powers.
In Rio, though, it was Dibaba’s turn to do the chasing.
The real racing wouldn’t start until there were just two laps remaining. The opening pace was slow with Britain’s Laura Weightman the reluctant leader of a closely bunched field, passing through 400m in 1:16.57.
Ethiopia’s Besu Sado and Britain’s Laura Muir moved to the front of the pack with little more than two laps remaining, but their lead didn’t last long as Dibaba darted to the head of the pack, passing the 800m mark in 2:27.11.
Kipyegon and world indoor champion Sifan Hassan were gradually making their way through the field as Dibaba continued to lead, attempting to increase and control the pace.
The bell sounded for the last lap and Dibaba was chased by Kipyegon and Muir as the trio opened up a gap on the rest of the field. Dibaba held pole position through 1200m, passed in 3:23.90, but Kipyegon was still close behind. Meanwhile, Hassan and USA’s Jenny Simpson set out in pursuit of the top three.
Kipyegon took the lead with 200 metres remaining, while Hassan, Simpson and Shannon Rowbury had caught Muir on the top of the final bend. There was no catching Kipyegon, though, who was away and clear, the Kenyan crossing the line in 4:08.92 after covering the last lap in 58.79 and the final 800m in 1:57.2.
“I knew it would be a fast race, I really had to kick on the last lap,” said the 22-year-old Kipyegon. “I was well prepared for the race. I’m proud to win for my country.”
Dibaba was more than a second in arrears, taking silver in 4:10.27. In the tight battle for bronze, Simpson had the better finish, taking third place in 4:10.53. Both Dibaba and Simpson earned their respective countries’ first ever Olympic medals in the women’s 1500m.
Rowbury was fourth in 4:11.05, finishing 0.18 ahead of Hassan. A tiring Muir was passed by Sweden’s Meraf Bahta in the closing stages, the pair recording times of 4:12.59 and 4:12.88. Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum rounded out the top eight in 4:13.14.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF