Former New Zealand Olympic 1500m champion John Walker has strongly criticised the performance of Nick Willis at the London Games.

Willis, a silver medallist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, faded to finish ninth in the 1500m final on Wednesday morning (NZT).

Walker didn't mince his words soon after watching Willis struggle to match the final-lap pace of a race won by Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi.

"He'll be very disappointed because we expect our athletes to perform. That wasn't even a performance," Walker told TV3.

"I saw he was in trouble when they sprinted away from him so easily. I thought he'd take the lead with 300m to go. Obviously he didn't have it there.

"He got beaten by bunnies. The guys are not even in his league, not as good as him, not as fast as him. He should have been in the top three."

Makhloufi's time of three minutes 34.08 seconds is nearly 4sec slower than Willis' personal best.

The Wellington runner clocked 3min 36.94sec and voiced his disappointment when interviewed after the race.

That reaction was no surprise to Walker, who won gold over the same distance at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

"He'll be feeling absolutely gutted because he promised so much. He said he was going to get a medal. He acted confidently, he looked good and he ran the fastest times coming into this race," Walker said.

"He had all the attributes to win this. He just didn't deliver.

"Winning at the Olympics is about pressure, it's about controlling your nerves and delivering.

"Deep down, he'll live with that for the rest of his life because that was his day, his promise."

Walker was among 700 people at a breakfast in Auckland to watch the race and said the guests were in "total despair" as the final lap unfolded.

Walker didn't think Willis could extend his career another four years to compete at the next Olympics in Rio de Janiero.

NZ Newswire