Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera won his country’s fourth gold medal of the championships in just his fourth ever indoor race, kicking hard in the latter stages of a highly tactical 1500m to deny Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski and Morocco’s 2012 champion Abdelaati Iguider.
In fact, the top seven finishers finished within 0.73 of each other, courtesy of a first 400m that took more than 75 seconds to complete.
With 2012 champion Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco in the vanguard, they dawdled through the first 200m in 33.91 and then, with the bearded Ben Blankenship of the US in front, hit 400m in 1:15.84. Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway had taken Bannister though 400m in 58 at Iffley Road.
Not until 800m was reached in an equally pedestrian 2:23.68 (25 seconds down on that 1954 split) did the battle for gold begin in earnest. Terefa was in front by then, with Iguider and Blankenship in his slipstream.
Iguider was back in front with 400m to go and lead down the back straight on the final lap until Terefa swept past in the home straight to win in 3:58.19 – just 1.21 quicker than Bannister had managed over the mile distance that momentous day 64 years ago. In doing so, at 18 years 134 days, the east African became the youngest man to claim the crown.
His fellow-countryman Deresse Mekonnen was 20 years 140 days when he won in Birmingham in 2003.
The fast-finishing Pole Marcin Lewandowski snatched silver in 3:58.39, with Iguider third in 3:58.43, Terefa’s team-mate Aman Wote fourth in 3:58.64, Blankenship fifth (3:58.89) and Briton Jake Wightman sixth (3:58.91).
“The race was very slow early on,” Tefera reflected. “It was very tactical and that wasn’t good for me, but in the last two laps I was able to use my power to win.”
Iguider, however, could not hide his disappointment with third place. “I came here for the gold medal, not the bronze,” he said. “It was the last 40m that did for me.”