With British mile legends Sebastian Coe and Sir Roger Bannister looking on, 24-year-old Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria became the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at 1500 meters on Tuesday when he stormed ahead in the final 300 meters to win in 3:34.08.
Storming up behind him on the homestretch was Leo Manzano of the United States to earn silver in 3:34.79, bringing home the first 1500-meter Olympic medal for the U.S. since Jim Ryun’s silver in 1968. In 10th place at the bell, Manzano blasted past four rivals in the last 100 meters.
The bronze medal was won by Abdalaati Iquider of Morocco in 3:35.13, with Matthew Centrowitz of the U.S., the 2011 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist, on his heels for fourth in 3:35.17.
“I've been training to the best of my ability,” said Manzano. “It was an amazing time. It was the only time I've ever cried after a race. It was the toughest mentally, physically demanding race. I knew I had done the work. I must thank the man upstairs."
Although this is his first international medal, Manzano has been one of the most consistent Americans at 1500 meters for the past seven years. Going back to 2006, when he was still competing for the University of Texas, Manzano has never finished out of the top three at a U.S. outdoor championships, and came to London as the 2012 Olympic Trials champion.
Manzano, who came to the United States from Mexico with his family when he was 4 years old, did his lap of honor draped in an American flag and carrying the flag from his country of birth.
The unheralded Makhloufi’s victory comes amid controversy: He was at first expelled from the Olympic Games on Monday by the IAAF, track and field’s governing body, for not giving honest effort when he stopped running during his heat of the 800 meters, at which he is the 2011 African Games champion. Claiming a knee injury, he was examined by a doctor and reinstated in time to run the 1500-meter final.
“It was the will of God,” he said after the race. “Yesterday I was out, today I was in.” He added, “I have a problem with my left leg and it may need surgery.”
No Kenyan runner finished higher than seventh, the first time since 1992 that no Kenyan 1500-meter runner was on the victory stand. The defending Olympic gold medalist, Asbel Kiprop, finished last, in 3:43.83.
Nick Willis of New Zealand, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, was ninth in 3:39.94.
“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