Our World Championships analysis series continues with a look at the women’s 1500m

The first women’s world metric mile final in Helsinki in 1983 was an exciting one. Just as she had when winning the 3000m a few days earlier, Mary Decker led at a quick pace, though windy conditions kept the opening 800m down to 2:10.

On the final bend, Zamira Zaytseva sprinted past and then cut across the American, causing her to break stride, and opened up a five-metre gap. Decker responded, though, and caught her just before the tape and the Russian’s response was to dive across the line but Decker won by a metre in a quick 4:00.90.

Forty-one-year-old Yekaterina Podkopayeva, who still holds the world W40 and W45 records, took bronze. Britain’s Wendy Sly, who was perceived as more of an endurance runner, was a surprise fifth, finishing just ahead of future Olympic champions Doina Melinte and Gabriella Dorio.

Tatyana Samolenko matched Decker’s double gold in Rome in 1987. Ulrike Bruns set a fast pace and was through 800m in 2:07.16. Her East German team-mate Hildegard Korner went ahead on the last lap, but Samolenko kicked past in the final 15 metres to win in 3:58.56.

Kirsty Wade was a solid sixth and the Welsh athlete would match that in Tokyo in 1991. Samolenko returned under her married name of Dorovskikh and the Ukrainian made a valiant defence, but in a slow-run race, didn’t quite have the strength in the straight to match the powerful Algerian, Hassiba Boulmerka.

The Chinese dominated the 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m in Stuttgart in 1993. The early pace in the 1500m was slow at 2:17.58 and then Liu Dong took off with a 60.15 lap and broke the field. She still had another gear, though, and a vicious 42.77 last 300m increased the winning margin to three seconds.

Sonia O’Sullivan, who had been the 3000m favourite but was run out of the medals by the Chinese, was a delighted second, ahead of Boulmerka.

The Chinese were absent in Gothenburg in 1995, where the Algerian returned to win her third successive medal. With her only significant win of the year, Boulmerka held off the challenge of Kelly Holmes throughout an exciting last lap with the two athletes stride for stride around the final bend and just had too much strength for the Briton to win by five metres in 4:02.42, courtesy of a 29.5 last 200m.

Portugal’s Carla Sacramento was a clear third and was a surprisingly easy winner in Athens in 1997 courtesy of a modest 60.9 last lap. Holmes had been one of the favourites but limped home injured in her heat with another
major casualty being double Olympic champion Svetlana Masterkova, who was an injured last in her semi-final.

Some 17 years before her most successful season, Jo Pavey made the semi-final.

In Seville in 1999, Sacramento made a brave defence of her title with a fast third lap but faded to fifth. Masterkova was back to fitness and won easily with a 58.4 last lap as she broke four minutes. Regina Jacobs won her second successive silver and notably broke her 11-year-old PB at the age of 36.

The 2001 final in Edmonton saw a Romanian 1-2 with Gabriela Szabo easily winning ahead of team-mate Violeta Szekely who had reportedly sued Szabo for $225,000 for calling her ugly!

In Paris in 2003, Sureyya Ayhan of Turkey shot into the lead and ran a 60.5 first lap, but she couldn’t shake off her pursuers and Russian Yelena Zadorozhnaya, who was running her fifth race in six days, overtook her on the last lap. The Turk responded, though, and sprinted back into the lead, opening up a gap but was run down by Tatyana Tomashova in the straight, the Russian winning in a championship record of 3:58.52.

Also inside four minutes was a fast-finishing Hayley Tullett. Both the runners ahead of the Welsh athlete later would fail doping tests and the double silver medallist Jacobs was disqualified from her semi-final after it was revealed she had failed a drugs test at the US Championships.

Tomashova returned in Helsinki in 2005, having been beaten by Holmes in the Athens Olympics, but wasn’t expected to be a factor, having not been in the top six in any races that year and was only running due to her automatic spot as defending champion. As favourite Maryam Jamal suffered from some rough tactics from the four Russians, Tomashova kicked to victory, having run 58.8 for her last lap. The second across the line, Yuliya Chizhenko, was disqualifed for impeding Jamal.

The Ethiopian-born Bahrain athlete was back wiser in Osaka in 2007 but benefited from the fast, even pace of Russian Yelena Soboleva, who ran laps of 65.82, then 63.75 and 63.09 but couldn’t break Jamal, who won in 3:58.75. Soboleva was only two metres behind but ultimately lost her silver medal a few years later for backdated doping offences.

Geleta Burka of Ethiopia was the favourite but was tripped on the last lap as Spaniard Natilya Rodriguez went for a gap that wasn’t there. Rodriguez finished the strongest in the straight and was first across the line but was disqualified for pushing. With her removal, gold went to Jamal, who pipped Britain’s Commonwealth champion Lisa Dobriskey by just a hundredth of a second.

Jamal’s fourth final in Daegu in 2011 didn’t go as well as she fell, was spiked and finished last in 4:22.67. A surprise winner was fast-finishing former steeplechaser Jenny Simpson, who had been well down the field in most of her races that year. Britain’s Hannah England might have given her a closer race had she not entered the straight back in seventh while Rodriguez finished third.

Simpson was in much better form in Moscow in 2013 and led at 800m, but former Ethiopian Abeba Aregawi, in the colours of Sweden, proved stronger and won with a 43.76 last 300m, though the American kept the gap down to a few metres. England was fourth which lifted Britain to third in the points table behind Russia and USA.


Year | Winner | Time | GB position and mark
1983 Mary Decker (USA) 4:00.90 5 Wendy Sly 4:04.14
1987 Tatyana Samolenko (URS) 3:58.56 6 Kirsty Wade 4:01.41
1991 Hassiba Boulmerka (ALG) 4:02.21 6 Kirsty Wade 4:05.16
1993 Liu Dong (CHN) 4:00.50 9 ht Sonia McGeorge 4:12.93
1995 Hassiba Boulmerka (ALG) 4:02.42 2 Kelly Holmes 4:03.04
1997 Carla Sacramento (POR) 4:04.24 11 sf Jo Pavey 4:11.12 (4:08.23 ht)
1999 Svetlana Masterkova (RUS) 3:59.53 6 ht Hayley Tullett 4:05.72
2001 Gabriela Szabo (ROM) 4:00.57 9 sf Hayley Tullett 4:13.95 (4:13.60 ht)
2003 Tatyana Tomashova (RUS) 3:58.52 3 Hayley Tullett 3:59.95
2005 Tatyana Tomashova (RUS) 4:00.35 10 Helen Clitheroe 4:05.19
2007 Maryam Jamal (BRN) 3:58.75 8sf Abby Westley 4:16.21 (4:09.67 ht)
2009 Maryam Jamal (BRN) 4:03.74 2 Lisa Dobriskey 4:03.75
2011 Jenny Simpson (USA) 4:05.40 2 Hannah England 4:05.68
2013 Abeba Aregawi (SWE) 4:02.67 4 Hannah England 4:04.98

Points table (8 for 1st etc)
1. RUS 60
2. USA 54
3. GBR 42
4. URS 39
5. ROU 37
6. ESP 24
7= POR 23
7= KEN 23
9= BRN 22
9= ALG 22

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