Kenya’s 1500m metronome, Asbel Kiprop, lost to American Mathew Centrowitz at the recently concluded Rio 2016 Olympic Games and he has taken the brunt of what his tormentors on social media are terming “overconfident yet miscalculated” track tactics.
Centrowitz held on dearly to surprisingly win the men’s 1500m gold after running 3:50.00.
It was an outcome not many people anticipated, with 2015 World Champion, Asbel Kiprop, the overwhelming favourite to win the gold medal in an event he has dominated for some time now.
In fact it was so tepid for Kiprop that he did not even finish in top three; he finished sixth running 3:50.87. Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi bagged silver after clocking 3:50.11 while New Zealand’s Nicholas Willis won Bronze in 3:50.24.
Social media users immediately took to the platform to criticise Kiprop for his ‘anecdotal’ yet barren race strategy.
The athlete, according to many, started the race on a wrong pace – near sprint speed. And it is this tactic that cost him gold medal, which according to spectators – both novice and die-hards – Kenya could have easily bagged.
And when the condemnation became too much to stomach, Kiprop spoke out on Sunday, August 21.
“Enough please! Those who expressed their emotions on social media towards me due to my race tactics and loss last night. Spare me for the good I have ever done to Kenya. I have a lot to offer in store.”
“But it’s hurting even more what I read. Remember I’m the only Kenyan who has ever won his country 1500m three times at the world championship; yes I’m that Kenyan who represented you in the heating conditions in Mombasa and won you glory as a junior in 2007. I’m your own. I’m born and raised in Kenya under the same flag and national colours. Na tukae na undugu amani na uhuru. Spare me please, I don’t deserve the accusations. I will do much better than that. I’m sorry.”
Kiprop was left wondering what happened to him as he was unable to hit top gear in the last 200m like he normally does. Hard as he tried it wasn’t happening, giving up in the last 60m as there was no room for him to attack and come home.
For Centrowitz, it was a good technical race as he led from start to finish, becoming the first ever USA athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in the 1500m since Mel Shepard did in 1908.
According to experienced athletics coaches, by convention, most long and middle-distance races begin with competitors running at or near sprint speed, leaving the novice spectator perplexed. And seemingly Kiprop was employing this tactic.
Many athletes themselves do not understand all of the reason why a fast start is beneficial; it’s rarely even talked about.
However, according to Coach Up there is a physiological benefit to starting fast and in front; in addition to strategic positioning, like not getting caught behind the slow runners. The body has three basic energy systems: aerobic, anaerobic, and alactic. The aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) energy systems are generally well understood by most coaches.
However, that third system, the alactic system, provides about eight seconds of energy that, if not used at the beginning of a race, is essentially lost and cannot be used at any other time – and seemingly this is what happened to Kirpop.