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MOSCOW (15-Aug) -- With a blazing sprint from 200 meters out, Abeba Aregawi earned Sweden's first-ever women's 1500m title at an IAAF World Championships, beating defending champion Jenny Simpson of the United States here at Luzhniki Stadium tonight, 4:02.67 to 4:02.99.
Aregawi, 23, a former Ethiopian who has only represented Sweden since last December, ran an excellent tactical race, shadowing Simpson from the start. Simpson, the former NCAA star for the University of Colorado, said it was not her plan to lead.
"The whole race I don't think I ever intended on leading as much as I did," Simpson told reporters. "But I definitely wanted to be in control."
Simpson led through 400 meters in 65.73 seconds, tailed closely by Kenya' Hellen Obiri, her 17 year-old teammate Mary Cain, Australia's Zoe Buckman and Aregawi. The pace was slow enough that the pack was still tightly bunched, and the other athletes didn't want to go around Simpson, who would continue to lead through 800 meters (2:13:92). Simpson was now actively coaching herself.
"As soon as I ended up in the lead... my mantra the whole way was, 'be hard to beat, be hard to beat. You be the one everyone has to beat.'"
Simpson was still leading at the bell, and through 1200m she shared the lead with Aregawi. Cain had fallen back and was running last. The pace picked-up on the backstretch, and it was Obiri who was the first to move. Aregawi and Simpson responded immediately, and both passed Obiri. Then Aregawi surged ahead of Simpson who said she was not going to give up.
"Even when Aregawi went past me I kept thinking, 'you can win this, you can win this.'"
Simpson indeed made up ground on Aregawi in the homestretch, but the Swede's lead was too great. Aregawi ran about 59 seconds for her final lap to get the gold.
"I felt good; I am so happy with the gold," Aregawi told IAAF interviewers. "After my failure at the Olympics last year, I worked specifically on the final 400 meters and on improving my finish. Today, the race suited me perfectly." (Aregawi ran for Ethiopia at the 2012 Olympics and was involved in a tripping incident with American Morgan Uceny. Aregawi placed fifth, but Uceny fell hard to the track and was unable to finish).
Obiri, who won the world indoor 3000m title last year, finished a clear third in 4:03.86. Reigning world championships silver medalist Hannah England crossed fourth in 4:04.98 after picking up several places in the homestretch. Cain, the youngest-ever woman to compete in a world 1500m final, finished tenth in 4:07.19, passing two women with a 62.7 second final lap. She was introspective speaking with reporters.
"I'm not even like sad, I'm just like angry," Cain said after the race. "And I think that's a good thing. I think that this was all a learning experience this whole meet."
Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi ran a near-perfect race, exploding out of the final water jump to win his third world title in 8:06.01, defeating his 18 year-old teammate Conseslus Kipruto (8:06.37). Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad got the bronze in 8:07.86, the same place he finished in Daegu two years ago. Kemboi now has six world championships medals (the other three are silver), and he also has two Olympic titles. He is now tied with the legendary Moses Kiptanui for the most world titles in this discipline.
"He's unbelievable," said American Evan Jager who finished fifth. "I think it's possible that he's the best steeplechaser ever."
"It is good to be the king," the always colorful Kemboi said sporting a Mohawk haircut. He continued: "I do not know what my next aims could be. I have to get a rest and after the break I will see."
Kipruto, who was overwhelmed with disappointment, refused to speak with the media in the mixed zone. Mekhissi-Benabbad said, "It is not easy to get a medal but I am still on the podium one more time, and that's what counts."
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg