What a year for the women's 800m. Top entrants from around the globe are going to fly, drive, train and bus their way into Berlin with the hope of somehow being the one to come out on top of this peculiar field.
World leader Caster Semenya of South Africa put the finishing touches to a wild pre-Worlds 800m splurge as she ran 1:56 at the Africa Youth Games. Never before dipping under 2:00, Semenya nevertheless smashed through the barrier in winning by 4 seconds. Now throw in the fact that she's 18 and the rumor that she was born a hermaphrodite (a person having organs of both sexes) and we've got ourselves one interesting tale. Semenya is trying to keep her expectations low heading into the games, which we think is a wise decision for a teenager facing this field.
Just a few days before Semenya's barnburner, America's 2009 sensation Maggie Vessey shocked the world with a 1:57 world leader from Monaco. Running in June without a sponsor, trailing the field by 20m with 200m to go, Vessey started mowing down world-class runners at meets like the Prefontaine Classic and USATF Championships. Before we knew it, she was competing all over Europe and then, after one mighty performance, was on top of the world. Vessey will be joined on the American squad by Hazel Clark and Michigan's multi-time NCAA champion Geena Gall.
The fun doesn't stop there. Next we'll go to Kenya, where 2008 sensation Pamela Jelimo has been putting the finishing touches on her tumultuous preparations for the WCs. Never has the world seen a more dominant performer than Jelimo in 2008. She won every race she ran with ease. The Olympics, the 6 Golden League meetings. Everything in between. She almost had the world record, and to think Jelimo is doing drugs while living in a 1-room shack on a mountain in Kenya is pretty cynical. She was the best women's 800m runner to ever set foot on a track.
2009 hasn't been so easy for the millionaire, but she's rounding into form. Her teammate Janeth Jepkosgei is also looking good and this duo will be amazingly tough to beat in Berlin. They are the WC/Olympic champion 1-2 punch.
Much like the 1,500m, the 800m leaderboard got a shake-up at the Russian Championships. Now 4 Russian women stand in the top 6 in the world this year. Svetlana Klyuka has a 1:56 PR and was 4th in Beijing.
Other dangerous competitors include Hasna Benhassi of Morocco (check out her bio below) and Mayte Martinez of Spain (ditto). At big competitions with rounds, they tend to grab medals.
LRC Predictions: Gold: Pamela Jelimo KEN Silver: Hasna Benhassi MAR Bronze: Svetlana Klyuka RUS 4th: Janeth Jepkosgei KEN
Women's 800m Statistics By LRC Coaching Guru John Kellogg
1:56.72 Caster Semenya (RSA)
1:57.84 Maggie Vessey (USA) (= #7 all-time USA)
1:57.86 Anna Alminova (RUS)
1:57.90 Mariya Savinova (RUS)
1:58.23 Svetlana Klyuka (RUS) PR 1:56.64 (2008) 4th in 2008 Olympic Games, 7th in 2007 World Championships
1:58.60 Elena Kofinova (RUS)
1:58.62 Yuliya Krevsun (UKR) PR 1:57.32 (2008) 7th in 2008 Olympic Games
1:58.63 Jennifer Meadows (GBR) 5th in 2008 World Indoor Championships
1:58.80 Anna Willard (USA)+
1:58.99 Elisa Cusma Piccione (ITA) PR 1:58.63 (2007) 6th in 2008 World Indoor Championships
1:59.03 Hasna Benhassi (MAR) PR 1:56.43 (2004) Silver medal in 2004 Olympic Games, silver medal in 2005 World Championships, silver medal in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 2008 Olympic Games, bronze medal in 2006 World Indoor Championships, 5th in 1999 World Indoor Championships, 8th in 2000 Olympic Games
1:59.07 Jemma Simpson (GBR) 6th in 2006 Commonwealth Games
1:59.13 Kenia Sinclair (JAM) PR 1:57.88 (2006) Silver medal in 2006 World Indoor Championships, silver medal in 2006 Commonwealth Games, 6th in 2008 Olympic Games
1:59.30 Tetiana Petlyuk (UKR) PR 1:57.34 (2006) Silver medal in 2008 World Indoor Championships
1:59.31(A) Janeth Jepkosgei (KEN) PR 1:56.04 (2007) Gold medal in 2007 World Championships, silver medal in 2008 Olympic Games, gold medal in 2006 Commonwealth Games, silver medal in 2006 World Cup
1:59.31 Ekaterina Kostetskaya (RUS) PR 1:56.67 (2008)
1:59.49(A) Pamela Jelimo (KEN) PR 1:54.01 (#3 all-time) (2008) Gold medal in 2008 Olympic Games
1:59.56 Marilyn Okoro (GBR) PR 1:58.45 (2008) 7th in 2006 Commonwealth Games
1:59.57 Élodie Guégan (FRA) PR 1:58.93 (2008)
1:59.60 Tatyana Andrianova (RUS) 1:56.00 (2008) Bronze medal in 2005 World Championships, 5th in 2004 Olympic Games, 5th in 2004 World Indoor Championships, 8th in 2008 Olympic Games
2:00.09 Hazel Clark (USA) PR 1:57.99 (#9 all-time USA) (2005) 7th in 2000 Olympic Games, 8th in 2005 World Championships, 6th in 2006 World Cup
2:00.20 Zulia Catalayud (CUB) PR 1:56.09 (2002) Gold medal in 2005 World Championships, gold medal in 2006 World Cup, 6th in 2000 Olympic Games, 8th in 2004 Olympic Games, 4th in 2002 World Cup
2:00.21 Mayte Martínez (ESP) PR 1:57.62 (2007) Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 2003 World Championships, silver medal in 2002 World Cup, 4th in 2008 World Indoor Championships, 5th in 2005 World Championships, 7th in 2001 World Championships
2:00.44 Geena Gall (USA)
+ = Not on Worlds Team in 800m