New Zealander Nick Willis was left searching for answers after finishing sixth in the men’s 1500m at the athletics world championships behind all-conquering Kenyan Asbel Kiprop.
Willis brought excellent form into Sunday’s gold-medal race, having stormed home to finish second in his semi on Friday.
But he could not find the extra gear needed in the concluding lap on Sunday as Kiprop raced away to win a third straight world title in three minutes 34.40 seconds.
Fellow Kenyan Elijah Manangoi was second and Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider was third, with the 32-year-old Willis crossing the line sixth in 3:35.46.
It meant New Zealand finished the Beijing world championships without any medals.
“I’m more just ‘blah’ about it rather than really angry because I left everything on the track – there wasn’t anything else I could have done tactically,” said Willis.
“My legs were shot today for some reason.
“Just the rounds, the cumulative effect caught up to me.
“The way the first two heats had gone, I thought I had become a new athlete.
“I guess I got my hopes pretty high, I thought if I was within half a second at the bell it was in the bag here, but for whatever reason I didn’t handle the three rounds quite as well as some of my competitors did.”
Willis paid tribute to Kiprop, who also edged him into second place in the 1500m at the 2008 Beijing Olympic final at the Bird’s Nest.
“He was pretty amazing considering the rumour was that he had the flu this morning,” said Willis.
“He’s been running phenomenally this later half of the season.
“He was looking very vulnerable early on … but he’s obviously the man to beat at the moment.”
Willis had lowered his PB to 3:29.66 at last month’s Diamond League meet in Monaco, the same race where Kiprop moved to third on the alltime list.