Published Sunday 03 August 2014

 Nick Willis produced a withering home straight sprint to earn a bronze medal in the 1500m today.

Willis, the gold medallist in the event in Melbourne in 2006, and the bronze medallist in Delhi in 2010, was only eighth going into the final bend.

He was caught in a bunch on the final bend and took some time to get out wide and begin his finishing kick.

Willis, 31, looked to have left himself too much work to do but really wound up the pace as he stormed down the home straight, picking up a succession of runners.

He was fourth with five metres remaining, but outleaned South African Johan Cronje to grab the bronze by 0.05s.

The race was won by Kenyan James Magut, the silver medallist in Delhi, in 3min 39.31s, from 18-year-old countryman James Kwemoi, 3min 39.53.

Willis clocked 3min 39.60s and Cronje 3min 39.65.

The other New Zealander in the race, Nelsonian Julian Matthews, was ninth in 3min 41.84s.

The initial pace was rather pedestrian, which was why there were so many runners bunched going into the final bend.

Willis said the plan had been to stay in the middle of the pack for two laps and then track the Kenyans, but it didn't quite work out like that.

"It was a relief that I had actually salvaged a medal," he said, "but as you can see I ran over to the South African [Cronje] and said, 'Sorry mate, you deserved that far more than I did'. It was only my fitness that got [me] the medal."

The Commonwealth Games record for the distance still resides with Tanzanian Filbert Bayi, who ran a world record 3min 32.16s in Christchurch in 1974. Some great runners have won the gold medal in this event, including Jack Lovelock, Roger Bannister, Herb Elliott, Peter Snell, Kip Keino (twice), Bayi and Steve Cram (twice).