By Brian Homewood
DOHA (Reuters) – Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot outclassed a field including two Olympic champions to win the men’s 1,500 metres at the world championships on Sunday after taking silver two years ago.
The 23-year-old had a huge lead at the bell and never looked in danger over the final lap as he strode home in three minutes 29.26 seconds, more than two seconds clear, to claim Kenya’s fifth straight win in the event.
Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, the 2012 Olympic champion, led the chasing pack to take silver in 3:31.38, delighting a noisy, flag-waving group of fans from the North African country on the first bend. Marcin Lewandowski set a Polish record to claim bronze.
Cheruiyot, also a silver medallist at the African Games and Commonwealth Games last year, said he took the initiative to avoid being jostled.
“You see that there is a lot of pushing so we were trying to avoid the challenges,” he told reporters.
“I felt the support of Kenyans in the crowd and it was amazing. The Olympic season is coming so I need to work harder.”
With Elijah Manangoi unable to defend his title after injuring an ankle in training, fellow Kenyan Cheruiyot was left as the clear favourite thanks to his devastating form this season which included a world leading time in Lausanne.
Cheruiyot, cheered on by a sizeable Kenyan contingent in a full house at the air-conditioned Khalifa stadium, took the lead from the gun and broke away along with compatriot Ronald Kwemoi.
He ran 55 seconds for the first 400m and 1:51 for 800, a risky move late in a season which has seen him run a succession of fast times in the Diamond League.
Still, he kept ramping up the pace, moved away from Kwemoi with 600m left and established a clear lead at the bell which he never looked like relinquishing.
Makhloufi, silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, led the chase around the final lap and held off Lewandowski, Norway’s 19-year-old European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen and British pair Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr to claim his first world championship medal.
Olympic champion Matt Centrowitz of the United States was eighth.
(Additional reporting by Gene Cheery; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)