Centrowitz ends America's long wait for 1,500m gold

Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:31pm EDT
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By Drazen Jorgic

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - American Matthew Centrowitz pulled off a shock victory in the 1,500m final on Saturday, stunning pre-race favorite Asbel Kiprop of Kenya to secure his country's first gold medal in the event since 1908.

In the run-up to the Games few expected the 26-year-old to challenge for a medal as all the focus was on Kenya's former Olympic champion Kiprop, who had won the last three world titles.

But after a pedestrian race that was won in a time 24 seconds outside world record pace, Centrowitz held off defending champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria to cross the line in 3:50:00.

"It's been a dream come true," Centrowitz told reporters. "Doing my victory lap, I literally kept screaming to everyone I know 'Are you kidding me?'"

Britain's double 1,500m Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, the current IAAF President, awarded the gold medal to Centrowitz.

"Seb Coe came up to me and said 'Welcome to the club', which I thought was very cool," Centrowitz said.

Centrowitz, who won a world championship bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013, ran the final lap in 50.62 seconds to take gold in a field stacked with African talent.

New Zealand's Nick Willis, who took silver at Beijing in 2008, overcame several injury-plagued seasons to snatch a bronze medal in his fourth Olympic games.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 1500m Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 20/08/2016. First placed Matthew Centrowitz (USA) of USA celebrates next to third placed Nicholas Willis (NZL) of New Zealand.  REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado