Willis runs comfortably into semis

Last updated 00:14 16/08/2008
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax Media
CRUISING: Middle-distance medal hope Nick Willis had to run faster than he wanted but "gained a lot of confidence'' after comfortably qualifying for the 1500m semi-finals

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Nick Willis believes two days is long enough to recover from the rigours of a fast qualifying race and tackle the Olympic Games 1500m semi-final.

Only five runners recorded faster times than the Wellington whiz at Beijing's Birds Nest Stadium late last night.

Willis, 25, admitted his 3min 36.01sec second place effort in the first of four heats was quicker than he had hoped to run before the semi-final on Monday morning (NZT).

"Hopefully, it won't take too much out of me for the next two races, but I've got two more days before the semi.

"But that will give me a lot of confidence going into the semi-final. I beat a couple of good guys in that field who I think are sure finalists.

"So to take the lead confidently and feel that good with 200 metres to go gives me a lot of confidence."

New Zealand middle-distance medal hope Nick Willis had to run faster than he wanted but "gained a lot of confidence" after comfortably qualifying for the 1500m semi-finals on Willis, who had the 18th fastest 1500m in the world this year, finished ahead of Algeria's Tarkek Boukenza (7th over all).

Frenchman Mehdi Baala, who won Willis' heat, was ninth best in the world for 2008.

The Michigan-based Willis was content to run at the back of the bunch for the first two laps but made his move in the third, inching up to second place coming into the home straight before taking the lead as he got the bell for the final lap.

Hitting the front that far out from home was not part of his pre-determined race strategy, but he decided to hit the front to keep out of trouble.

"That was the main reason I did it. Normally, I wouldn't be taking the lead that early, but to maintain that momentum, you may as well keep it going. I didn't do it by plan, it's just what turned out happening."

Willis scooted off to "cool down and get my legs ready" before the next three heats were run.

But his race was considerably faster than the second and third heats, but the fourth was the briskest of all with Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain in a scorchng 3min 32.89, with the first three place-getters running faster times than Willis.

The first five in each heat qualified for the semi-finals plus the next four fastest finishers.  

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- Fairfax Media

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