2018 Gold Coast Diary: A memorable women's 800 meters, by J. Stuart Weir

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20180413_211424.jpgNatoye Goule, bronze medalist, 800 meters, Jamaica, photo by J. Stuart Weir

20180413_221258.jpgNatoya Goule, Jamaica, bronze, 800 meters, photo by J. Stuart Weir

Stuart Weir wrote this column on the women's 800 meters, and the performance in bronze by Natoye Goule, the runner from Jamaica who ran a fine run for the bronze medal.

A memorable women's 800m

I have seen some outstanding women's 800m races in the past year. At the Monaco Herculis Diamond League, poor old Brenda Martinez ran 1:58:43 and was seventh with Caster Semanya winning in 1:55.27 from Francine Niyonsaba and Ajee Wilson with the first three all under 1:56 and all setting national records. I am not sure I have ever seen such an exciting race. In London 2017, Wilson ran 1:55.92 but it only got her third place behind, well, Semanya and Niyonsaba. At the 2018 World Indoors, with Semanya absent, Niyonsaba won in 1:58.31 from Wilson.

The Commonwealth Games Women's 800m did not disappoint. As I wrote in an earlier post, 12 of the 26 athletes in the semis ran under 2:01.00.Two of the semi winners dominated the final, Semanya and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, with Semanya taking an early lead and never being overtaken.

The final result was:

Caster Semanya 1:56.68,

Margaret Wambui 1:58.07

Natoya Goule 1 58.82

Semanya, who carried the South African flag at the opening ceremony, set a new Games record as well as becoming only the third woman in Commonwealth Games history to complete the 800m and 1500m double - after Kirsty Wade (Wales) in 1986 and Nancy Langat (Kenya) in 2010.

Whatever the issues surrounding Caster Semanya, since I first saw her run in Berlin 2009, I always feel that she handling herself with dignity and I fully endorse the comments she made after the race:

"I've been in this industry for almost a decade now. As a sports science graduate, you tend to understand the psychology of how to handle emotions, how to handle negativity, and turn it into positivity. I've had to learn how to manage it myself, how to face the world.

As I person I want to be better. It's not about what other people think of me, it's about how I think of myself".

I have got to know Natoya Goule a bit over the past six months and I hope she will forgive me for calling her a surprise bronze medallist. In her last two championships, Goule was fifth in her heat of the 2017 World Championship in 2:01.77 and second in her heat of the 2018 World Indoors in 2:02.49. In neither did she progress. In the Gold Coast it was a different story.

In the semi-final she ran 2:00.74 crucially holding off Shelayna Oskan-Clark by seven hundredths of a second to reach the final where she ran a big PB of 1:58.82.

She seemed to be well off the pace early in the final but that was all part of her race plan. "I wanted to stay as close to lane 1 as possible - which I did - and then I kept on seeing it open, in front. At the bell I kept on going and realized there is nobody directly in front so I kept on going and then I realized that people were fading. I kept on kicking and finished third. At the finish I felt really strong". I suspect we are in for a few more exciting 800m races this year.

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