This is the second piece by Stuart Weir on 2019 WC Doha silver medalist at 800m Raevyn Rogers and her story.
Raevyn Rogers was the silver medalist at the 2019 World Championship 800m. In an earlier post, I have described the race as I saw it with reactions from the participants. In part two we look at the race and the build-up to it, through the eyes of one athlete.
The story begins in 2017 at the US Championships and World Championship trials. In 2016, Raevyn Rogers had been fifth in the US Olympic trials and missed Olympic selection by two places. In 2017 Raevyn was fourth in US selection trials with three qualifying for London. After the disappointment of 2016, Raevyn Rogers was determined “to come back in 2017 and get it. So to miss it, yet to be in the race to qualify for the World Championships, and then just tire, I was completely devastated. Mentally, I knew I could make the team but physically, my body was a little bit more realistic – that I was coming off a full collegiate year having triple crowned. But, I was devastated especially missing out by one spot. It taught me a lot about patience and purpose just in terms of trusting the process”
In 2018 she was selected for the World Indoors in Birmingham and reached the final. Birmingham was “a real eye opener in terms of intensity. It was clear that people had not come to play!” Third place in the 2019 US Trials meant she was finally bound for an outdoor championship, where she set her sights high: “In Doha, my goal was definitely to get a medal. I didn’t want to be too specific – although sometimes it’s good to be specific about what you would like but I was open for God to reveal to me whatever plan he had. So, my expectations were to get a medal, for sure. It’s funny because I actually put it on my goal list to come first or second – so it showed I didn’t want third! So, this was an expectation I had for myself or a goal I had set for myself.
“As I was going through the rounds, my mom had phoned me ‘I’m just happy that you’re even here’. Sometimes I feel as athletes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and a lot of expectations on ourselves and at such an early stage of my career, it allows me to be understated. But it also allows me to work on the things I want to work on as well while I’m in this place”.
She won the prelim in 2:02.01. commenting afterwards: “It felt good. I am just trying to go one round at a time. I am ready for tomorrow and everything else. The weather is good, not too harsh. It is easy to breathe out there. The track feels good. I ran here in May. I am just looking forward to a great weekend. For the semi-finals, I want to execute my race plan. Each race is different so you want to make sure you get through the rounds”.
Semi-finals are tough with only two guaranteed a place in the final – but not tough if you win! Raevyn did just that in 1:59.57. She described her strategy: “I had to control the race as much as I could. It is all about the pace and strategy. There was a lot of pushing in the curves; it was much different compared to the prelim. I expect the final to be with pushing again, a very tactical race. I must watch the pace. I am very excited; it is my first worlds and my first final. Now I need to do as much recovery as I can – mentally and physically. I am calm and ready to accept any result coming from the final. Ajee [Wilson] is a good team mate, she gave me the strength and the faith all through the season. But I think the final is going to be really an individual race”.
And so to the final: “I was so calm. I wasn’t nervous. I was really so calm. The last two races of 2019 [world semi and final] were my two best races mentally. It was insane because prior to that, because the season had been so long, I remember telling myself that I wanted to do well when it mattered. I didn’t want to get too wrapped up in how the whole season was going but about being ready when I needed to be. Going into the final, I had kept that same composure, the same confidence and the same faith that had taken me through the rounds. I was thinking: ‘Whatever outcome there is, I’m OK with this’, because I remembered 2017 and missing the team by one spot. Missing the team like that is a different kind of disappointment – when you miss the team and know you could have made it. So that’s what I took into the final that whatever comes out of this race, it’s only going to take me nearer to the Olympic year and all the things I want to accomplish in my career.
“So, I was calm. My coach asked me what I wanted to do and I said I just wanted to run my race and not get caught up in the hype. I felt that was my biggest danger. ‘The hype’ can be anything, for example, social media, which is very temporary but can take you out of your game. So, I wanted to run that race the way I knew I could run it. And that’s what I went out and did”.
At the bell, Natoya Goule led from Ajee Wilson on 57.96. Raevyn’s time was 59.05.
“I did the first lap in 59 – I didn’t even know that until I went back and watched it again. I came through in 59 when the leaders were 57, but I was fine with that – until I realized that I was at the back! But I was still OK with it. Everybody knows that in the second lap it gets a little crazy and the tempo gets crazy. You might get somebody who will push it immediately, before you even get to 300m mark. But I still wanted to keep my plan in my head and also remembering from when I had run in Doha in May 2019 that the straights are extremely long. And I had tested things out in the prelim and semis and those were things I took into consideration in the final.
“I knew exactly when I wanted to go. I knew I couldn’t go too early because the straights are so long. And that’s exactly what happened. I got in the outside lane – because that was what I like to do. I don’t like to be muscling and bustling I just want to have a straight shot at the line. I didn’t know how close I would get but it was just me giving it my all to finish the race. Then I saw my time was 1:58. Yet somehow it didn’t feel like the final.
“I was almost feeling I should have one more round but that just shows the composure I was feeling that I wasn’t treating it like a final. People were like: ‘you got so close; you could have got first’ and my response was ‘it was definitely for a reason that I didn’t get first’. I was just calm, taking everything into consideration and I’m grateful where it got me because I was in seventh place with 100m to go. Making a move like that nobody knows how close they are going to get. You just close your eyes and go”.
She did the final 100m in 14 sec! “I think my biggest thing is that I have a lot of heart. That shows in relays. I’ve been the same since I was little but once I can see the place that I can go from, I really go for it”.
After a few minutes to compose herself, she summed it all up: “It feels amazing. It’s kind of surreal. It went by so fast. I can barely remember what happened. It’s a blessing to be in this position. I took a risk. It was a risk I am confident in taking only because I ran on this track in May. It’s a lesson I learned at the Diamond League meet. There I kicked off the curve and died with 30m left. This time I just needed to be more patient. I was confident in my speed and went for it at the right time. Silver means a lot to me. Nobody gets the opportunity to medal in their first World Championships. I am humbled and blessed with this opportunity. It’s been a hard year with lots of ups and downs mentally and in other ways so this is a great way to end”.