Commonwealth Games: Willis takes bronze with dramatic finish

By David Leggat in Glasgow

New Zealand's Nick Willis after claiming the bronze medal in the men's 1500m final. Photo / Greg Bowker
New Zealand's Nick Willis after claiming the bronze medal in the men's 1500m final. Photo / Greg Bowker

Nick Willis won his third Commonwealth Games 1500m medal at a sodden Hampden Park tonight, but was left with a distinct feeling of an opportunity missed.

The Lower Hutt runner won gold in Melbourne eight years ago and bronze at New Delhi in 2010, and tonight his late surge got him to the line in third place, just squeezing out South African Johan Cronje by .05s.

It was a Kenyan 1-2, with James Magut, who won silver in New Delhi, winning in 3min 39.31s from compatriot Ronald Kwemoi who recorded 3:39.53.

Willis got the bronze in 3:39.60, getting over Cronje in his last three strides, but was disappointed he hadn't done more with the chance tonight.

''I wouldn't say I had timed it right," Willis said of the finish.

''I timed it wrongly and that's why I had a chance only at the bronze not the other two."

He apologised to Cronje telling him the South African he ''deserved that far more than I did.

''He ran a better more cagey and brave race.

''He just faded at the end. It was only my fitness that got me to that medal, not any tactical nous, or brilliance or planning."

Willis' plan was to be in the middle over the first two laps and slowly make his way towards the Kenyans whom he knew would be at the front.

However the pace didn't click on at the bell. Willis said it was almost a mirror image of the Delhi final.

''Had they gone at the bell I would have been able to follow them, stay on their shoulders and tried to catch them.

''But they're great runners and I probably wouldn't have been able to pass them."

Willis said his aim was then to ''at least salvage a respectable finish and beat the Aussies."

He then saw that ''lo and behold" the frontrunners were slowng in the last 30m.

''So I gave it everything. It's more a relief and salvaging of a minor medal than any glory or satisfaction. The victory lap was to thank the crowd rather than any celebration of the performance."

The second New Zealander in the race, Julian Matthws, finished ninth in the field of 12, clocking 3:41.84.

The American-based Nelson runner was chuffed to make the final and it had whetted his appetite to press on with the world championships in Beijing next year.

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