Rome 2009, Day 8
Men's 1,500m freestyle
Oussama Mellouli (TUN) got past Grant Hackett for the Olympic crown last summer but there was no getting past the Australian's monumental 14:34.56 world record from 2001.
In 14:37.28, Mellouli in an X-Glide, had the energy edge on Ryan Cochrane (CAN), who took silver in 14:41.38, the bronze going to Sun Yang (CHN) in 14:46.84 after a 26.65 last 50m sprint in response to a late challenge from home hope Federico Colbertaldo (ITA). At the last turn, 0.21sec seperated the battle for bronze and the Roman crowd went wild. But Sun was in no mood to listen, racing the last 50m 1.23sec faster than the Italian.
"I am proud for Tunisia and Tunisian sport," Mellouli said after racing for much of the race in a line with China's Zhang Lin and Canada's Ryan Cochrane. By 800m , those three had broken away from the pack but by the 1,000m mark, Zhang looked like he was struggling, his stroke breaking down, his rhythm gone. Mellouli sensed his pain and dug deeper. Cochrane tried to hang on but in the closing 200m it was obvious that the Olympic champion had more reserves.
Not enough for Hackett, however. If anyone wants to get to that, they are going to need to be closer to the pace than 1.7sec adrift after the first 100m of the race, especially when chasing a man who aimed for home like a long-lost child running after its mother.
Mellouli had yet to get that elusive gold and was more nervous in the 1,500m because of the pressure he felt before a race that marked his last change for glory. "I was a bit disappointed about the other races. That's why I felt more under pressure in this one," he added.
"After the Olympic gold in Beijing I went back to my country and they celebrated me as a national hero. I think it will be the same this time."
The race confirmed that just two world records remain from the pre-shiny-suit-2008 era: the 1,500m for men and women, the latter held by Kate Ziegler of the US.