Nick Willis finishes third at world indoors

By David Leggat

Nick Willis finished third at the World Indoor Athletics Championships. Photo / AP.
Nick Willis finished third at the World Indoor Athletics Championships. Photo / AP.

New Zealand's Nick Willis had gold in his sights before being run down to finish third in the 1500m final at the world indoor athletics championships in Portland, Oregon today.

Willis took the lead with a withering burst of pace and was in front 300m from the finish. He held the lead as the runners turned for home, only to be run down by brilliant American Matt Centrowitz as the line drew close.

Czech Republic runner Jakub Holusa snatched silver with a final surge, leaving Willis to take bronze.

Centrowitz won in 3min 44.22 seconds.

It is New Zealand's third medal of the world championships, after gold and bronze medals for shot putters Tom Walsh and Valerie Adams respectively.

Listen: Nick Willis talks to Radio Sport's Kent Johns

Holusa clocked 3:44.30, with Willis recording 3:44.37.40s ahead of fourth-placed American Robby Andrews.

The pace, set by defending world indoor champion Ayanleh Souleimann of Djibouti, was slow and Willis settled at the back of the field.

He stayed there for most of the first half of the race before moving up three wide to stay close to the action, but well away from the jostling which happened among the bunch several times.

It was Willis' surge which lifted the tempo of the race. He went 3m clear, setting out his stall early, with Centrowitz tracking him.

As Willis turned for home it looked briefly as if the 2008 Olympic silver medallist would hold on for a first world indoor title.

However Centrowitz would not be denied and edged past Willis in the last 30m.

Souleimann faded badly to finish last.

Willis admitted he was shattered after the race but was pleased he had left nothing in the tank, had given himself every chance.

"I haven't pushed myself that hard that early in a race for long time. But it's good to know I left everything on the track," Willis said minutes after the race.

He admitted he got a little impatient about 400m into the race and made a short move which he called his "only regret".

"Perhaps if I'd just stayed back another couple of laps and saved all my energy for that last move. But that's the beauty of the mile; you get a second chance."

When the 30-year-old made his move two laps from the finish he didn't know if it would be a winning ploy. But he figured it gave him a chance to run the race on his terms.

"It was just to get going and do it early enough so I wouldn't have to be running around people. I've been disqualified in the last two world indoors because I got caught behind guys in the last couple of laps.

"If I ran out of energy at least I'd have a clean run to the line. If they passed me so be it.

"But they didn't pass me, and didn't pass me and I thought just pretend the 100m to go line was the finish line because if you hit that final bend in the lead it's very difficult for guys to pass you in the last 50m. But I had nothing left."

Willis said he would take the next week off but won't race again until July, the month before the Olympics in Rio.

"I might do some pacemaking for some of my friends and training partners trying to get qualifying times for the Olympics.

"But I've got my ticket booked pretty much so I'll recharge and there's still five months until the Olympics. The main thing is avoiding burning out in July."

He said "absolutely" there were positives out of the meet for the New Zealand team specifically in relation to preparations for Rio, even though these were indoor championships.

"One of the factors which might be overlooked is having the championships here in North America, with Rio it's not too dissimilar a time zone.

''It's must easier for me living in the States, but going to Europe just wipes you out and you've got to take a week to adjust for the jet lag.

"The longer you're living out of a suitcase the more it detracts from your performance. There's a reason host nations often perform well. But this will carry over with Rio being hosts."

- NZ Herald

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