Willis Captures 1,500-Meter Olympic Bronze; Brannen Places 10th
Provided by U of M
RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil -- University of Michigan alumnus Nick Willis used a strong kick to gain three positions down the homestretch and capture Olympic bronze in the 1,500-meter run on Saturday evening (Aug. 20) at Olympic Stadium. It is the second Olympic medal for Willis, who also claimed silver at the 2008 Beijing Games. Fellow Wolverine alumnus Nate Brannen claimed 10th in his first Olympic final in three appearances.
Both former Wolverines settled into the middle of the pack -- Willis on the outside, Brannen on the inside -- through a slow, 66-second opening lap. Willis moved up among the frontrunners as the pace slowed even more -- to 69 seconds -- in the second lap, and both avoided some jostling in the middle that caused Kenya's Ronald Kwemoi to fall to the track. The pace again accelerated entering the bell lap, and caught on the rail, Willis was pushed back as the field began to string out.
Willis came around the bend in sixth place but cut to the middle to quickly move into fifth and used his kick to pick up two more spots down the stretch, finishing in 3:50.24 -- just 0.24 behind American gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz and 0.05 ahead of fourth-place finisher Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti. At 33 years old, Willis is the oldest Olympic medalist in the long history of the 1,500-meter run and the first New Zealand native to earn multiple medals in the event.
Brannen, who was near the back of the pack coming out of the final turn, himself picked up a couple positions down the stretch to finish in 3:51.45. He was the lone Canadian representative in the final.
Willis and Brannen, who were teammates at Michigan from 2004-05, have appeared in four and three Olympic Games, respectively. Willis has made the 1,500-meter final in each of his last three appearances; he finished third in 2008 by slim 0.05-second margin -- and was subsequently upgraded to silver months later after a failed drug test by would-be winner Rashid Ramzi of Morocco. The Olympic final was the first for Brannen, who missed the final in London in 2012 after he was clipped and fell midway through his semifinal race.
Communications Contact: Chad Shepard