Above: Nick Willis racing in the 1500m semifinal at the IAAF World Championships in London. Photo by Matthias Hangst / Getty Images.
Nick Willis went a step closer to finally medalling at a World Championships just sneaking into the final of the 1500m after claiming one of the two fastest non-automatic times.
The Olympic Games silver and bronze medallist and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist drew the second semi-final and needed to finish in the first five or run faster than 3:40.76, the sixth placing in the first semi-final.
Willis went untraditionally into sixth place from the start instead of his normal position at the rear and coming through over the final 300m. He was fourth at the 800m in 2:01.00 and with a lap to go was third.
Down the home straight he was still in contention of a top five placing only to be passed by Chris Hare of Great Britain and Fouad Elkaam of Morocco to finish sixth in 3:38.68. Jakub Holusa of the Czech Republic won the semi in 3:38.05.
Willis said that he lived to fight another day.
“It didn’t feel great, I think I’ll enjoy having an extra days rest before the final,” said Willis rushing through the mixed zone.
Asked why he seemed to ease up going towards the finish, Willis added, “I just felt a bit over extended and I was trying to relax but then a whole bunch of guys were coming. I knew seven would get through from our semi but suddenly with 50m to go I could sense a big rush of guys coming and I just didn’t quite have that extra gear so I had to muscle it in.”
“But I’m in and hopefully that extra days rest will help. Hopefully I’ll bounce back pretty good for the final. The idea is that I’m improving every race because it’s early season for me, so that’s what I’m going to hang on to and I’ll be giving everything I can for a medal, whether I can or not we’ll have to wait and see but that’s why I’m in the final to give it a shot,” he said.
Ron Warhurst Willis’ coach for the last 15 years agrees that anything can happen in the final.
“I wouldn’t put anything past him, he’s surprised people before both good and bad, it’s all a matter where his mind set is at for this one,” said Warhurst.
However Warhurst said that he doesn’t have any room left for any more grey hair if his charge runs as he did in the semi-final.
“As usual Nick always makes it interesting no matter what. Usually he likes to run from the back but I think he wanted to make sure that he wasn’t getting kicked around or anything and just to make sure he got in. He doesn’t run well from the front so I don’t think you’ll see that tactic on Sunday.”
“The point of it was to get through and he qualified. It doesn’t really matter how you feel, the point of it is to advance how you get there is irrelevant as long as you get there. He came into these championships with a big question mark, he ran 3:34.74 in Monaco in tenth place and everybody thought he’s out the back door, the old man can’t do it well we got another shot.”
“The main thing is that Nick is in the final and he is healthy and that’s all we’ve got to hope for,” said Warhurst.
Willis will rest up over the next day and then get together with Warhurst to work out a plan for the final.
“We’ll go over the race and look at who’s in it and then make the final decision how he’s going to run it.
“I think the best thing for Nick is stay in the back and watch it unfold as he doesn’t run well up front,” added Warhurst.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent