This is Stuart Weir’s piece for this week. He has focused on the women’s 800m in Doha.
The women’s 800 meters was an intriguing race. The absence of Caster Semenya, the reigning World and Olympic champion, robbed the event of a superstar but at the same time made the race somehow more open and intriguing. Francine Niyonsaba, who was second behind Semenya at the 2016 Olympics and the 2017 World Championships was also absent, another victim of the controversial new testosterone rules.
Ajee Wilson was arguably the heir apparent, having come third in the 2017 World Championships behind Semenya and Niyonsaba. Moreover, in 2019 Wilson followed Diamond League victories in Stockholm, Monaco and Birmingham by winning the Diamond League Final in Brussels.
Also in the World Championship final were two other Americans, Raevyn Rogers and Ce’Aira Brown. There were two Ugandans, Halimah Nakaayi and Winnie Nanyondo. While Nakaayi had won at the Bislett in Oslo and come second in Lausanne, she had also two fifths and an eighth on her 2019 Diamond League record. Eunice Sum, 2013 World Champion, was there too. Natoya Goule – second in Monaco and Paris 2019 Diamond Leagues – and Rababe Arafi made up the field.
Nakaayi, Rogers and Wilson (in order of finishing time) had won the three semi-finals – was that to be an omen? Britain had disappointingly no-one in the final. Lynsey Sharp had exited in the prelim, Alexandra Bell in the semis and the unlucky Shelayna Oskan-Clarke fell in the semi, ten meters from the line in a qualifying position.
In the final, Goule led at the bell in 57.96, by a hair’s breadth from Ajee Wilson, who then took and held the lead until the home straight, where she was overtaken by Nakaayi and then by her training partner, Raevyn Rogers.
The final result was
Nakaayi comments afterwards: “I was feeling so good, I knew something special was going to happen tonight, so I kept pushing and pushing and in the end I got it. I am so happy. At first I couldn’t believe the pace but I was feeling strong and in the end it worked out for me. On the home straight I was still feeling strong, so I still could push, I knew everything could happen After the race we danced a dance from central Uganda. We are the first Ugandans to make it to a final in 800m, it is really so meaningful, the first medal ever. So we had to dance this dance, it is our tradition. It is called Chiganda dance”.
Wilson said: “I am disappointed. I wanted to come away with the win today. I gave it a shot in the last 100m but I didn’t have it in my legs today. I definitely need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how we are going to improve for next season. I am also happy for Raevyn. Very proud of her”.
In a second article on the race we will look at the race through the eyes of silver-medalist, Raevyn Rogers.