August 5, 2017
LONDON — Saturday was a great morning for Americans at London Stadium as all 10 U.S. track athletes who competed on day 2 of the 2017 IAAF World Championships advanced to the next round. Though it wasn’t a shock to see all three Americans move on in the women’s 100 or the men’s 400, it is rare to see that happen in the men’s 800. But the young U.S. squad of Drew Windle, Isaiah Harris and Donavan Brazier all advanced automatically to give the U.S. three men in the World/Olympic semifinals for just the second time since 1997.
Of the three, Windle had the closest call as he was over a second off the lead in seventh place at the bell and sixth halfway down the home stretch with only the top three advancing automatically. But Windle, who gambled by staying inside, finally found some room and passed three guys in the final 50 meters to grab the third and final auto spot in heat 1 in 1:46.08. He ran his final 200 in 26.1.
Harris and Brazier, both of whom just finished their sophomore years in college, ran like seasoned vets and cruised through. Harris got out well and stayed in the top three throughout, taking second in heat 3 in 1:45.82 while Brazier controlled heat 6 from start to finish, winning it in 1:45.65.
The biggest name to be eliminated was 2015 bronze medalist Amel Tuka of Bosnia & Herzegovina, who could only manage 5th in heat 6 (he was .12 away from advancing on time). By season’s best, the fastest guy not to make it through was Ghana’s Alex Amankwah, the Alabama grad who ran 1:44.80 in May (#11th fastest racer in terms of SB) but finished fourth in heat 4.
Kenya’s Michael Saruni, who was third at the Kenyan Trials and a late addition to the field, did not start in heat 6. Egypt’s Hamada Mohamed (1:44.92 SB) and Puerto Rico’s Andres Arroyo (1:44.98 SB) also missed out which meant that four of the top 15 entrants failed to make it through (five of 16 if you count Saruni).
Results, analysis and interviews below.
Donavan Brazier Runs Like a Pro
Last year at his first large professional meet, the Olympic Trials, 19 year old Donavan Brazier wilted away and didn’t make it out of round 1.
This afternoon in his first World Championship, he ran like a seasoned pro, running wire to wire in front and doing what was necessary to advance.
Even more impressive is he may have done it with his shoe untied. Take a look at this:
— LetsRun.com (@letsrundotcom) August 5, 2017
When asked afterwards about his shoe Brazier said if his shoe was untied he didn’t even realize it, he was so focused on the race. “If it was I wasn’t paying attention… I have a habit of doing that (having it come untied) so I wouldn’t be that surprised if it was.”
Brazier said his coach Alleyne Francique told him he could make the final from the front, from the middle, or from the back, but with some falls in other heats, he decided to run from the front.
“I just thought the easiest way to do it would be from the front,” Brazier said.
He said he slightly misjudged the finish line and put in a little surge at the end to make sure he advanced (it never was in doubt), but that he felt very good and he feels his fitness is better than it was when he won USAs in June.
Overall, Brazier said this year he feels fresh. “I’m more fresh this year. I don’t have a whole collegiate seasons for me… I just felt tired and fatigued and I think that was the main reason for me dropping out and no qualifying for World Championships and Olympics.”
Brazier accomplished goal #1 this year by making Worlds. “The main goal was to get to London and once you’re here we’ve got to make it to the final because once you get in the final anything can happen.”
Once you make the final, just about anything can happen in the 800, especially this year. “I think I’m a lot better at the slow races than last year but I still think my best race is when the pace goes out fast .. We’ll see. Time will tell. The final is on a special track. Rudisha ran 1:40 on it. I don’t know if any of us can do that,” he said.
Nijel Amos Downplays Being a Favorite
At the 2012 London Olympics, Nijel Amos ran 1:41.73 for silver as an 18 year old. He struggled the next year running 1:44.71, but was very good in 2014 (1:42.45) and 2015 (1:42.66 but didn’t make World final) before struggling last year (1:44.66, went out at first round of Olympics).
This year he moved to the US to train with coach Mark Rowland of the Oregon Track Club in Eugene. He’s liking the US with the one caveat being the Oregon weather, “It’s good a change of environment. I like it but it’s always wet.”
He appears to be back to his old form this year. However, he disputed the fact he ever disappeared from the scene. “I’ve never been out of scene. Each and every time I was injured I was able to run 1:44 which at the end of the day is a fast time. In Rome (this year in the only race he didn’t win), I ran 1:48 after falling down and closing in 52 which was a good race for me.”
He didn’t like the favorite talk saying, “There are 47 other athletes in the 800. They’re all special.” He knows to medal, he’s first got to make the final which never is a sure thing in the 800 where only 2 people automatically qualify in each semifinal race.
Is Mo Aman back? And could Amos have a new training partner at OTC next year?
Aman, like Amos, found a great deal of success early — he won Worlds in 2013 at age 19 — but did not make the final at Worlds in 2015 or the Olympics last year. Aman’s season best this year is only 1:45.68 — nothing special for a 1:42 guy — but he said he was dealing with a hamstring injury earlier this year that has now healed. His race today was definitely his best of 2017 so far as he closed well to take second behind Brazier and almost beat his SB, clocking 1:45.81.
Aman joined the Oregon Track Club back in 2015 but said he is now training with his old coach back in Addis Ababa as he was dealing with injuries and wanted to return to Ethiopia to get healthy. That may not be permanent, however, as Aman said he would like to rejoin OTC if he can stay healthy moving forward.
“Now when I get fit, I go to the team,” said Aman, who is still only 23 years old.
Emmanuel Korir confirms he has gone pro but will stay at UTEP to train
Korir only ran 1:47.08, but he still won heat 4 and didn’t have to dig particularly deep to do it. With David Rudisha absent, Korir will be counted on as one of the men to pick up the slack for Team Kenya, and he said that he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m expecting a medal,” Korir said. “Maybe gold. I’m courageous about it. If someone goes with it, you have to appreciate it. But I know I will make it.”
Korir also confirmed that he has turned professional — the second straight true freshman NCAA champ to do so. But he said that he will return to UTEP to finish his degree and train under coach Paul Ereng.
Drew Windle said he felt flat and allowed himself to get gapped, but he’s moving on
Windle likes to run from behind, so it’s no surprise that he was only 7th at the bell. The problem was, he had allowed a gap of several meters to form between himself and the pack, and considering the pace wasn’t incredibly fast (51.61), he found himself in a hole on the second lap.
Windle did manage to close the gap eventually, but he found himself with a tough decision coming off the final turn in sixth place: stay inside and hope that an opening would open up or swing very wide in the open space on the outside. Windle chose the former and eventually found enough space to move up and pip Tunisia’s Abdessalem Ayouni for third just before the line.
Windle’s come-from-behind strategy has taken him all the way to the World Championship semifinal, so he doesn’t intend to change it now, but he knows he must run smarter on Sunday.
“I can’t get gapped like I did today,” Windle said. “I have no problem being at the back but I need to be much closer with 300 to go so I can respond to those moves right off the bat and be in the mix with 150 to go.”
Windle added that he felt flat today, which is typical for him during the first round of a championship, but hopes that he’ll be snappier tomorrow.
Isaiah Harris looked great and was pumped to be at his first Worlds at age 20
There’s not much to say about Harris’ race. He got into good position early and stayed there throughout, closing well to take second in heat 3.
Harris has had a long year — this was his 34th race (including relays and prelims) of a season that began back on January 14 — but he was able to take some rest after USAs and says he feels as good as ever now.
“I feel really good,” Harris said. “I feel like I just got a lot of race experiences this year, that’s it.”
Harris also praised the crowd and has been soaking in the perks of being on Team USA while still in college.
“It’s a dream come true. Every runner ever wants to wear the USA. We’re the #1 track team in the world for a reason and I’m honored to represent the country.”
Interview with Nigeria’s U.S.-based Edose Ibadin
Ibadin, a 2015 Hampton grad who finished sixth in heat 1, missed out on advancing by just .09. Ibadin actually ran at USAs (he went out in the semis) but said he was able to run here — despite the IAAF’s freeze on transfers of allegiance — because he had never represented the U.S. internationally (his parents are Nigerian). Ibadin trains with the District Track Club in Washington, D.C., and has made impressive progress in recent years as he was only a 1:48 guy when he graduated from college but has now run 1:45 and made it to Worlds.
Want to see a 22-second 800? Check out this video.
— Athletics Canada (@AthleticsCanada) August 5, 2017