With his trade mark finishing kick Nick Willis ranged up on the outside over the final 70 metres to snatch the bronze medal from South Africa’s Johan Cronje in a time of 3:39.60.
James Magut of Kenya, the silver medallist at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, won in 3:39.31 from compatriot Ronald Kwemoi who clocked 3:39.53.
Willis, 2006 Melbourne Games gold medallist and bronze in the 1500m at Delhi, said that his timing wasn’t the best.
“I timed it wrongly and that’s why I had a chance at only the bronze medal and not the other two but it was a relief hoping that I actually had at least salvaged a medal and I went straight over to the South African and said ‘sorry mate you deserved that far more than I did you ran a much more cagey and brave race you just faded a little bit at the end’, it was only my fitness that got me to that medal and not any tactical nous or brilliance or planning, said Willis.
The 31 year old Olympic 1500m silver medallist said that the plan was to get in the middle and just relax the first two laps.
“A little bit like I did in the heat and then slowly make my way up so I was right up with the Kenyans with 400m to go. But I didn’t learn the lesson from Delhi where the pace didn’t get going till the back straight,” he added.
Willis added that he got boxed in by two guys and had to be patient.
“And when I finally got out it was just at least salvage a respectable finish to get fourth and beat the Australian at least, you always want to beat the Aussies and then lo and behold they were coming right back to me in the last 30 metres and I gave it everything and it’s more of a relief rather a salvage of a minor medal rather any glory or satisfaction, the lap afterwards was more to thank the crowd rather than celebrate a performance.”
Willis added that he was probably still a bit flat from racing the 5000m.
Next up for Willis is a mile race next Sunday in Michigan where he hopes to give Sir John Walker’s New Zealand mile record of 3:49.08 a nudge.
Julian Matthews on a steep learning curve of international racing was ninth in 3:41.84.
The 26 year old from Nelson said that he got a good start again, but it was a struggle to hold it.
“There was a lot of pushing, a lot of shoving Nick nearly went down a few times which I was worried about but no it’s a big learning curve for me, obviously the biggest race of my life,” said Matthews.
“I’ll take a lot from it and learn and get better and hopefully next time give it a better shot.”
On the second lap Matthew lost some ground on the second lap when Willis came through on the inside.
“I just didn’t hold him off, I should have held that ground, hey I’m happy it was Nick and not someone else, I need to be holding my ground really.”
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent