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Closing Time: World Championships Day 9 Recap

Genzebe Dibaba doesn't get first. She doesn't even get second. Americans finally win something on the track.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It was a fitting final day of the World Championships in Beijing as the Americans continued to falter. Dibaba won gold on this last day, but it wasn't the one you expected. There was a benediction for the U.S. in the final event.

--The Women's Marathon was as close a finish in a marathon as you are likely to see. After a much more honest pace early than in the men's race from earlier in the week, due to much better conditions than the men faced.

Edna Kiplagat was the prohibitive favorite in the race, but through 30k, she had a number of challengers with 11 other runners int he lad pack that was running right under 2:30 pace. Just before 35k the three Kenyans through in a surge, thinning the field to 6 contenders. By 40k, the race was down to four women after Kiplagat and Tigist Tufa were dropped. There was never a huge move, but, rather, just a gradual acceleration that caused runners to fall off one-by-one.

Coming onto the track, Mare Dibaba, and Helah Kiprop were in for a 100m sprint to the finish, with Eunice Kirwa close behind. Dibaba won out by a second as all three medalists finished within 5 seconds of each other for the closest WC marathon in history. If you endured the over-2 hour long experience of watching a marathon, you were rewarded with the type of close finish that you rarely see in the event.

Place Athlete Time
1 Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:27:35
2 Helah Kiprop (KEN) 2:27:36
3 Eunice Kirwa (BRN) 2:27:39


--Ethiopia swept the women's 5000m, but not in the way you'd expect. If I told you Ethiopia swept, you might expect that Dibaba and Ayana gapped the field a bit with 1000 or so meters to go and Senbere Teferi battled with the Kenyan cohort for the bronze, but that is not at all how it went.

After an honest, but manageable, opening pace that saw the field come through 2k just over 15:00 pace. In that next kilometer, Almaz Ayana and Genzebe Dibaba threw in a not-otherworldly 72 second lap that strung the field out. Ayana and Dibaba, now firmly clear of the field, followed that with a 67 second lap, then a 65, then a 66. It was Ayana and Dibaba, with the former leading Ethiopia to a 1-2 finish in the 5000m.

But then something strange happened: Ayana threw a 65 at Dibaba and Dibaba dropped off the pace. Ayana's 4th kilometer was 2:43 and that was enough to break Dibaba as a huge gap opened up and kept growing. Part of this was Ayana running away from Dibaba, but the more surprising aspect was that Dibaba was fading back a bit herself. That fading back allowed her Ethiopian teammate Senbere Teferi to outline her for the silver medal spot. The Kenyans followed 4-5-6-7 in the final. Then the rest of the world came through to complete the field.

Place Athlete Time
1 Almaz Ayana (ETH) 14:26.84
2 Senbere Teferi (ETH) 14:44.07
3 Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) 14:44:14


--Asbel Kiprop entered the weekend as the favorite in the men's 1500m after his performance in Monaco in July, but Taoufik Makhloufi looked strong through the preliminary heats and looked poised to challenge the king. For 1200m, it looked like Kiprop would no longer be the king. Coming into the bell, American Matt Centrowitz was leading and pushing the pace. But, in the last lap, Makhloufi took the lead with Iguider right behind. Asbel Kiprop was sitting at the back of the pack with 300m to go.

But then, toward the end of the back stretch, Kiprop woke up and started moving easily up along the outside of the field. Coming off the final turn, he still had Iguider and Makhloufi to deal with, which, with the way Makhloufi has closed, figured to be a tall order, but it wasn't. Kiprop glided past them and won the race somewhat easily.

Sometimes it is possible to forget just how talented Asbel Kiprop is when he falls asleep in big races and does things during races that make us scratch our heads, but then there are moments--like Monaco; like today--where one can't help but notice just how talented he is.
Place Athlete Time
1 Asbel Kiprop (KEN) 3:34.40
2 Elijah Manangoi (KEN) 3:34.63
3 Abalaati Iguider (MAR) 3:34.67


--The women's 4x400 got off to a discouraging start for the U.S. squad as Jamaica had a 20m or so lead after the first two legs. Over the course of the 3rd leg, however, Allyson Felix caught and overtook the Jamaicans giving the U.S. the lead entering the last leg. It was a sub-48 second split for Felix. If there was any doubt that Felix is the best 400m runner in the world coming in, that should be firmly removed now.

So the U.S. handed off in the lead to Francine McCorory, the fastest 400m runner in the world this year. The race was well in hand and that expectation played out for the first 300m of the final leg. But, coming off the back turn, Novelene Williams-Mills took advantage of McCorory losing her form and fading a bit to catch and pass her for the Jamaican win.
This race was a microcosm of the world championships for the United States. They do just enough to get our hopes up that they will turn around a disappointing performance and then, when it actually comes down to it, simply disappoint.

Place Team Time
1 Jamaica 3:19.13
2 USA 3:19.44
3 Great Britain 3:23.62

--The men's 4x400m relay was the final chance for American redemption at these World Championships and the men's team was so much stronger on paper than their competition that it seemed nearly certain that, barring a baton drop or other blunder, they would win gold.

The U.S. got out strong and were with Jamaica and Trinidad for the first couple legs and trailed Trinidad by a step going into LaShawn Merritt's last leg. He was neck-and-neck with Machel Cedenio of Trinidad on the back straight before Javon Francis of Jamaica made a convincing move to the front on the outside.

That move from Francis woke up Merritt, who responded to take the lead coming off the turn. He ran away from the competition over the last 100m to give the U.S. its first gold on the track of this year's World Championships.
Place Team Time
1 USA 2:57.82
2 Trinidad & Tobago 2:58.20
3 Great Britain 2:58.51


Nick Zaccardi sent this out prior to the relays referencing the U.S. struggles in the individual track events, but it applied to the relays as well.

Thanks to that 4x400m performance, that tweet only applies to individual events. That one medal over 400m, of course, belongs to Emily Infeld, who got bronze in the women's 10,000m.

We'll have more wrap-up coverage throughout the early part of next week after our editorial staff has a chance to gain both perspective and rest.