David Rudisha's Absence Felt by Kenyans in the 800m by Justin Lagat

In a brutal race, Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds battled Mohammed Aman and Ayanleh Souleman, and Nick Symmonds won the silver medal, battling Mo Aman to the final steps. For Mohammed Aman, it was the first 800 meter gold EVER for Ethiopia. For Nick Symmonds, it was the first medal at 800 meters for an American male since 1997, when Rich Kenah, now a partner at Global Athletics & Marketing, one of the top meet and athlete management firms in the US, took the bronze.

For Nick Symmonds, this is a long time coming. The American runner stayed close to the front and ran his race, battling Mohammed Aman to the tape. For Duane Solomon, who finished sixth, this was a tough race. Solomon will have his day, as American fortunes are looking up in the 800 meters.

For Kenya, the race was a disaster, as Justin Lagat relates in this timely piece.

 Mo Aman, Nick Symmonds, Ayanleh Souleman, the 800 meters, Moscow 2013, August 13, 2013, photo by PhotoRun.net

David Rudisha's Absence Felt by Kenyans in the 800m
by Justin Lagat

Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, the only athlete to have ever defeated the world record holder, David Rudisha after the London Olympics is now the reigning 800m world champion after battling hard for it in a close finish with Nick Symmonds of the USA who took the silver medal. Djibouti's Ayanleh Souleiman took the bronze medal.

When a dog bites a man, it is not news. But, when a man bites a dog; it becomes news. I have forgotten where I heard that phrase, but it is exactly what happened in the men's 800m event in Moscow: No Kenya was able to make it to the finals. The middle distance events ranging from 800m, 1500m and 3000m steeplechase has always been dominated by Kenyans in world major events. The last time a Kenyan runner failed to make it to the finals in the men's 800m event was at the world championships 30 years ago in Helsinki.
Given the fact that this is happening just one year after Kenya did splendidly at the distance during the London Olympics, where David Rudisha in a world record time led other Kenyans in bringing home two medals in this event is even more surprising. It is also worth noting that the other medalists too at the London Games; Amos Nijel of Botswana and Timothy Kitum of Kenya failed to feature at the world championship event this year. Did the fast pace affect them all?

Duane Solomon, Nick Symmonds and Mohammed Aman who finished in 4th, 5th and 6th positions at the London Olympics, appeared to be the strongest and more experienced contenders for the medals at the finals, together with Andrew Osagie.

The road to Kenya's bad show in the 800m at the world event began in May this year when David Rudisha picked up a knee injury after running at the New York IAAF Diamond League in the US. As time drew nearer for the national trials, Kenyans began to get concerned as they eagerly waited to hear good news concerning the 800m king's recovery, but time caught up on him before he could recover. Even though he had an automatic qualification to appear in Moscow being the defending champion, his management soon after the trials announced that he had to miss the championships. Timothy Kitum, and Job Kinyor who were the other Kenyan favorites in the event failed to secure slots too in the team after being defeated at the trials.

On the first day of the Moscow world championships, one Kenyan, Jeremiah Mutai failed to even get through to the semifinals after finishing 7th in heat 4 of the first rounds in a poor time of 1:50.17. A day later, the other two Kenyans did not go past the semi finals as well. Fergusson Rotich was disqualified in the first heat under IAAF rule 163.3(a) for stepping out of his assigned lane, but all in all, he did not look like he was going to make it any way. Anthony Chemut, the other more experienced Kenyan who had the better chances of sailing through to the finals only finished 6th in heat 2 and failed to advance.

During the finals, Duane Solomon of USA, the favorite to win the race, may have gotten his tactics wrong by making himself the pace maker from the start of the race, crossing the 400m in a very fast time of 50.28. He paid for that in the last 100m when other athletes began to run past him as he lost his strength. His countryman, Nick Symmonds was able to sustain a kick almost to the finish when Aman Mohammed of Ethiopia outran him just before the line. Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti surprised many by finishing in third position.
From what I saw in the men's 800m, it looks like the rest of the countries are now beginning to take running seriously too and it is no longer as easy for the Kenyans to shine in their favorite events as they used to do in the recent past.

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