21 Mar 2016

Willis third at World Indoor Champs

6:16 pm on 21 March 2016

New Zealand middle distance runner Nick Willis has finished third in the 1500m final at the World Indoor Championships in Oregon.

Nick Willis third at the 2016 World Indoor Athletics Champs.

Nick Willis third at the 2016 World Indoor Athletics Champs. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Willis sat at the tail of the pack for the majority of the race before accelerating to the front for the final two laps.

The 32-year-old turned the home straight in the lead before he was passed by American Matthew Centrowitz and then nabbed by Jakub Holusa from the Czech Republic right on the line.

Centrowitz' winning time was 3:44:22 while Willis finished a 15th of a second behind at 3:44:37.

Nick Willis had been disqualified in both previous occasions he had competed at the World Indoor Championships.

Willis has an Olympic silver and three Commonwealth Games medals including a gold from 2006 but had never before won a medal at a world champs, either indoor or outdoor.

Willis said that he was pleased that he had given himself every chance of taking the gold.

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

Perhaps if I'd stayed back another couple of laps and saved all my energy for that last move," he said.

Willis was keen to run the race on his own terms in taking the lead.

"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," said courageous Willis.

Willis will now return to his Michigan base to continue his campaign for his fourth Olympic Games in Rio, hoping to replicate the form that took him to an Olympic silver medal in 2008.

New Zealand finished eighth on the World Indoor Championship medal table with a gold and two bronze medals.

Tom Walsh won gold in the mens shot put while Val Adams was third in the womens shot put.

The United States topped the medal table with 13 gold, while Ethiopia was second with 2 gold medals.