By Joe Battaglia
DOHA, Qatar (09-May) --- Several days after finishing fourth in the 1500m at the U.S. Olympic Trials last July, Gabriele Anderson was finally able to get over falling two seconds shy of qualifying for London.
It was then that the pain gave way to a moment of clarity: she needed to get better.
"I took a lot of things away from the Trials experience, but one of them is definitely seeing that there are some jumps I need to make in order to position myself better in races to make those teams," Anderson said in an interview here. "After coming so close to making the Olympic Team, I realized that making these U.S. teams is something that is realistic for me.
"I hope to show up on the start line at the World Championships in Moscow and if I do, I want to make sure I am experienced so I can do the best job that I can representing the United States."
That learning process has brought the Perham, Minn. native some 7000 miles from her home base to this Persian Gulf state for the opening Diamond League meeting of the season at the Qatar Sports Club, where she will be the only American runner competing in the ‘A' heat of middle-distance or distance event.
Judging by the field assembled for the 1500m, the 26-year-old will have her work cut out for her. There are a total of nine women with personal-bests faster than 4:04, among them three women who have sub-4-minute personal-bests and are also coming off disappointing Olympic finishes.
Twenty-two year-old Swede Abeba Aregawi broke four minutes three times last season, including a 3:56.54 at the Diamond League Golden Gala in Rome, before finishing fifth in London. Genzebe Dibaba, also 22, of Ethiopia ran 3:57.77 to beat Aregawi at the Diamond League Shanghai Grand Prix but was felled in the first round in London by a hamstring injury. Ibtissam Lakhouad, 32, of Morocco, who finished fourth at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, ran 3:59.65 – a shade slower than her PR of 3:59.35 – at the Diamond League Meeting Areva in Paris but like Dibaba was a round one DNF at the Games.
But this is exactly the challenge Anderson is looking for.
"I am here looking for experience on the international level," Anderson said. "I have a limited amount of that experience. I have, obviously, done a bit of racing in Europe during the summer but I have never raced in a Diamond League 1500m. I raced in the 3000m in Monaco last year, which was a good experience, but I think for me to make the next jump as an athlete I need to learn how to become a more-savvy racer against the best in the world."
When Anderson reflects on her 2012 season, she is particularly pleased with the way she bounced back from her Trials disappointment to win the 1500m in Lignano, Italy in July, where she also ran her personal-best of 4:04.84.
Although it was only her second full season as a professional, she was not naïve enough to ignore the fact that in an Olympic year it is all about getting to London and what you do there, and she failed. In her analysis of her performance in the 1500m at the Trials, the one thing that stood out was that she was nowhere near being in position to strike during the defining moments late in the race.
"Specifically, I missed the big move," Anderson said. "I wound up getting fourth but had I not missed the break when those top three girls (Morgan Uceny, Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson) went with just about 400m left, had I been even on the back of it, I could have given myself a chance and it could have been a whole different race for me. I can only do so much if I am sitting in eighth place with 400 to go.
"It has become a recurring theme where I feel like I am not close enough to the front of the race with about 400 meters to go so when those breaks are made, I am not a part of them. I need to stay closer to and intact with the front of the race. That's what I am realizing and what is forcing me to go outside of my comfort zone."
Anderson enters this race having finished fifth in 4:10.32 in her season opener at the Drake Relays on April 26. That race represented only her third time on an outdoor track this calendar year due to a delayed start to her training because of a plantar fascia issue in her right foot and the seemingly never-ending winter – it snowed on May 1 – in Minnesota.
"Being off the track so long and having not raced a 1500m since last July, Drake didn't show my fitness at all," she said. "But you've got to start somewhere."
Anderson said that should tomorrow's race somehow play out tactically, she is hoping to put herself in that striking position. She also knows that Diamond League 1500s are more typically footraces, so she is preparing herself mentally for a fast race. In that case her goal will be achieving the World Championships ‘A' standard of 4:05.50.
"I don't know necessarily that I am going to be at the very front of this race," Anderson said. "I hope to be in there competing, and that's the goal. Regardless of what happens, I will get experience simply being on the line and racing. Right now, testing myself against this type of field seems like a good thing to do."
PHOTO: Gabriele Anderson last month in Boston before competing in the B.A.A. Invitational Mile (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)