Seeing a white guy in the lead of an Olympic distance final certainly
energized the Danish announcers that were talking on the feed we were
watching. Fam's lead would be short-lived, however, as less than a lap
later he was falling off the main pack, which already had lost at least
Women's 800m Final: No Surprises Here (Thank Goodness)
The contenders were ratcheting up the pace, but it was clear that this race
was going to come down to a frantic finish. Perhaps expecting a Kenyan
sweep with 600m to go, Kenyan fans must have been a bit nervous as it
was anyone's race. Heading into the bell, the Kenyan steeple fans
probably relaxed a bit as defending Olympic Champion Ezekiel Kemboi and fellow Kenyan Richard Mateelong went to the front and were first and second. They were followed closely by France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad.
As the final lap progressed, it was the defending champ Kemboi (who had guaranteed victory earlier in the week when
he said, "I must retain the title or I won't return home. Believe me, I
will retain the gold medal. I am in the best shape of my life.") who faltered first. But as he fell back, his compatriot Brimin Kipruto,
the 2007 World Champion, was moving up. Kipruto had run most of the
race in the back of the lead pack and was only in the middle of the
pack coming to the bell.
Heading into the final turn, Mateelong and Mekhissi-Benabbad were
joined by Kipruto, and heading into the final water jump, fans got an
amazing spectacle - all three were running abreast. The Frenchman was sandwiched by Kipruto on his outside and Mateelong on the
It seemed someone was liable to go down, but no one did, and
heading into the final barrier on the homestretch, the three were still
side-by-side, providing quite a spectacle. A steeple doesn't get any better than this.
Given how authoritatively he'd moved up throughout the final lap, it should have been
no real surprise that Kipruto was the one who pulled away for the
Olympic title, as the Frenchman Mekhissi-Benabbad got silver in a lifetime
best of 8:10.49 and Mateelong held on for third (8:11.09). Kipruto's
last lap was sub-60. Very impressive.
Famiglietti ended up 13th in 8:31.21.
Since Amos Biwott won the steeplechase
gold medal for Kenya at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968, Kenya
has taken the gold medal in this event every time the African nation
has attended the Games.
Let's be honest, when this race started, most track and field aficionados were praying that a
Russian wouldn't somehow win, given the fact that 7 Russians - many of
them middle distance runners - were suspended just prior to the
Olympics. Those athletes were basically going to make a mockery of the
Olympic middle distance events on the women's side. If a Russian
medalled here, the validity of that medal would certainly be under
After the gun went off, all questions as to what tactics Kenya's 18-year-old sensation Pamela Jelimo
would employ went out the window. She would do what she's done in every
800m race run she has ever run - hammer the pace from the front. Jelimo
took the race out in a ridiculous 55.41. She was followed fairly
closely by last year's World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei
as Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair
tried to keep pace about five meters back. Probably 10-15 meters off the lead was the great Maria Mutola
and Russia's Svetlana Klyuka
For a brief moment, we thought, "Oh no, is 55.41 too fast? Klyuka's out in 57-58; could she swallow up the Kenyans?"
No worries; as the leaders came to the backstretch, Jelimo did what
she's done in every race this year - exploded. As she got to 600m in
1:24.03, the question turned to whether she could attack the world
No world record scare, but she got a much deserved
Olympic gold in a new personal best (and new world junior record of
1:54.87). Jepkosgei, who had looked no better than many of the other
contenders all summer, finally displayed the kind of fitness she showed
a year ago and finished a decisive second in a seasonal best of
1:56.07, with Morocco's brilliant championship racer Hasna Benhassi
getting the bronze in another SB of 1:56.76. Klyuka ended up 4th in
1:56.94. Mutola, the 2000 Olympic Champion, ended her Olympic career in
fine fashion with a seasonal best of 1:57.68, which placed her 5th. Kenia Sinclair
also got a SB in 6th (1:58.73).
800 Metres - W Final