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BEIJING,(Reuters) - Kenya's Asbel Kiprop won the world 1,500 meters title for the third time on Sunday, the 2011 and 2013 champion producing a late charge from 12th place to first in the last half-lap to take gold on Sunday.
The tall and leggy Kiprop, 26, strode majestically to the finish and clocked 3 minutes 34.40 seconds, running the final lap in 51 seconds as his rivals battled and stumbled behind him to the line.
Kiprop won Kenya's seventh gold medal of this world championships, his team mate Elijah Manangoi took the silver in 3:34.63 and Morocco's Abdelaati Iguider threw himself across the line to secure the bronze in 3:34.67.
The opening two laps of the final were run at a steady pace, but Kiprop dropped right to the back of the pack in a display of supreme confidence in his ability to out-kick his rivals.
Silas Kiplagat and Timothy Cheriuyot appeared to be running to Kenyan team orders as they set the pace, running 59 seconds for each of the first two laps.
At the bell, American Matt Centrowitz was the first to make a dash for glory.
Kiprop's game of patience continued, the pre-race favorite only moving past four or five rivals down the back straight as one of his biggest threats, Taoufil Makhloufi, Algeria's London 2012 Olympic gold medalist, took the lead with 200 meters left.
Makhloufi went from the lead to finishing out of the medals in the last 15 meters as Kiprop and Managoi's late-rush took the big prizes.
"I am so proud of myself to become part of this exclusive club of three-times world champions," Kiprop told reporters.
"But I would dearly love to defend the title a fourth time in London in 2017."
Kiprop is officially recognized as the 2008 Olympic champion, though he was denied his moment of glory in this same Bird's Nest Stadium because Rashid Ramzi won the race but was subsequently disqualified for a doping offense.
"It was a good race and it was also very special," Kiprop said.
"I became Olympic champion here in Beijing but I have never been on the top of the podium."
Reporting by Steven Downes, editing by Ed Osmond