The women’s 800m is one of the events that has changed dramatically in 2019. Ajee’ Wilson looks to be the favorite for Monday’s final, but, as Stuart Weir notes here, there is always tough competition in WC.
The Women’s 800
The Women’s 800 meters semi-finals were full of quality, intrigue and excitement. Personally, I disagree with the IAAF decision to exclude Caster Semanya but it sure makes the race more open. Raevyn Rogers (USA) took the first heat in 1:59.57 from Winnie Nanyondo (Uganda) in 1:59.75 with an exhibition of front running which took her through 400 meters in 57.88. In fact, seven of the eight athletes were through 400 sub 59.
Heat two saw Ajee Wilson (USA) win in 2:00.31 from Rarabe Arafi (Morocco) 2:00:80. The third heat was the fastest with Halimah Nakaayi (Uganda) winning in 1:59.35 from Eunice Sum (Kenya) 2:00.10. Former world champion, Sum, messed up the prelim and only qualified on fastest time. Class is permanent and she led most of the way to assure her qualification. Ce’Aira Brown (USA) and Natoya Goule (Jamaica) were third and fourth, taking the “fastest loser” places.
Wilson said afterwards: “The plan was to get out there, get the lead and be comfortable and come away with the win. I definitely know that in the final I will have to run faster than that”.
Three Americans, two Ugandans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Jamaican will contest the final.
This was an event in which Britain would have expected to have one if not two in the final. Lynsey Sharp (as reported previously) failed to progress from the heat. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke fell or was tripped in her semi-final while in contention. Alexandra Bell was fifth in another semi-final.
One of my favorite races of 2019 was the Monaco women’s 800m, which was won by Ajee Wilson (1:57.73) from Natoya Goule (1:57.90). Goule said of that race: “I think I made a couple of mistakes in the race like trying to be in the outside almost all the race and I had tried to pass on the curve. If because it’s a long curve and I really didn’t know where the 150 mark was. I should have been more patient. But as I said things don’t come before time and I am happy. But I am happy to be at the place where I know I will continue to strive and push forward. I’m not afraid of going”.
Wilson will be the favorite in Monday’s final but I would not rule Goule out. Goule feels that she has the natural talent for 800: “I think I was born naturally speedy and I also have strength so I think it’s just across the board. I think I was born naturally with this talent. So building on that is what helped me to be able to run fast” adding “I honestly don’t know why Jamaica does not have many world class 800 meter runners. We have lots of juniors growing up who can run the 800 but then they shy away from the event to do other distances. In our DNA we’re supposed to be able to run distance – 800 all the way up. But a lot of persons don’t want to, they prefer to be sprinters or do shorter events. But based on where our DNA came from, we should be able to run distance well in Jamaica. A lot of our distance runners are from the country where it is hilly. I think being from the country helped me”.
Having being at World Championships 2013-17 without coming close to the medals, she is now competitive in any event she is in. She attributes the improvement to some changes in training and lifestyle: “I started taking my long runs seriously. I used to train hard on the track but on long runs I didn’t monitor it with my watch I just went out and ran. Then I started monitoring my runs and pacing myself better. That was one big change that I made. Also my diet. Because I’m small, people would say you’ll be OK but even though I’m small, I’m getting older and I have to eat properly. So I started to eat properly and that also helped me to perform well last year”.
P.S. USA set a championship record in the 4 by 400 metres mixed.relay. What do you mean it was the first time it had ever been run at a World Championship? Actually, it was a world record too!