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Men's 800m - Tactical, Physical Race Won By South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi
American Nick Symmonds Fought For And Won Good Position But Couldn't Pull it Off Last 80

By LetsRun.com
August 23, 2009
Berlin, Germany

The tenor of the men's 800m final can only be described as "physical." It is only fitting after two previous rounds that were dogfights where many of the top half milers were knocked out of the competition by one means or another.

In the end it was a brawl that would decide the male world champion 800m runner. And after a hugely-debated women's 800m win South African Caster Semenya, another South African refused to be passed and was crowned world champion.

Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who at just short of 29 was the oldest man in the field, went to the lead in the race and passed 400m in only 53.44 seconds (Semenya took the women's final through in 56.83). His control of the race paid huge dividends for him as he held off 2nd- and 3rd-place Alfred Kirwa Yego and Yusuf Saad Kamel by only 0.06 seconds.

12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day NineMany had predicted the men's 800m would be one of the most wide-open events of the championships, and it certainly was. Favorites, including Olympic 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, world leader Abubaker Kaki, Olympic 800m champion Ismail Ahmed Ismail, Kenyan star David Rudisha, 2007 runner-up Gary Reed and others, failed to make the final.

Mulaudzi the Champ Was Only Fourth in His Semifinal
Continuing the craziness, eventual champion Mulaudzi was only fourth in his semifinal heat, earning the last time qualifier spot into the final by a mere 0.14 as only the top 2 in each semifinal earned automatic spots in the final.

12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day Nine Back to Sunday's race - The final had 10 men in it, thanks to an IAAF decision to allow Dutchman Bram Som and Pole Marcin Lewandowski into the final. Those two were tripped up in the fall with Abubaker Kaki in semifinal #1 on Friday (photo progression here). This decision certainly had a major bearing on the final, as there was a ton of shoving going on in the 10-man pack traveling at 53-seconds/400m almost the entire race. (There still seems to be debate as to whether Kaki tripped himself or was tripped from behind by Bram Som. We find it hard to believe that Kaki would just go down without some sort of contact from Som and this interview seems to support it)

American Nick Symmonds was involved in many of the skirmishes, once with Yuriy Borzakovskiy, and once with Amine Laalou. Symmonds was busy rubbing elbows with many in the field but eventually won a very fortuitous spot right next to Mulaudzi at the front. Glory was not to be for Symmonds, as he could not finish fast enough over the final 100m despite having a clear path to the line. The fiercely competitive Symmonds blitzed through the mixed zone after the race, not talking to the media, after seeing his quest for gold or a medal fade away the last stretch.

Updated: Symmonds did talk to the Eugene Register Guard later. He was upset 10 guys were in the final, "I read the rulebook, and you have to finish a semifinal to get to be in the final. Why Som was in the final I’ll never know. No excuses, but I blame the IAAF and USATF for that." As for his race he added, "“I was in perfect position at the bell and perfect position with 100 to go but I didn’t have quite enough left in my legs after three rounds."

Mulaudzi Holds Off Charging Field
12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day NineAlfred Kirwa Yego of Kenya, the 2007 the diminutive world champ trying to somehow pull off the rarely-accomplished back-to-back 800m win, was near the back of the pack for most of the race. But Yego had a huge charge in the final 200m, and if the race were a full half mile (i.e., 804.5m) he might have won it over the totally spent, forward-leaning Mulaudzi, who somehow managed to hold on the chargers down the final stretch, crashing to the track just after the finish.

As the final results show, Yego overcame Yusuf Saad Kamel by less than 0.01 seconds to take silver. In 2007, Yego won gold by 0.01 over Gary Reed. Kamel, formerly Gregory Konchellah of Kenya, personally won two medals for Bahrain thanks to a big 1,500m gold and a tough bronze-winning 800m performance. Kamel now has two medals trailing his  father Billy Konchellah's who won golds in 1987 and 1991 and bronze in 1993.

Moroccan Amine Laalou was a major factor in both the 800m and 1,500m qualifying rounds, but couldn't put it all together in the final. In the finishing photo above it is clear that Laalou, who looked great all week, simply could not get it quite right for a medal. He would finish 5th behind Borzakovskiy, both within 0.31 of a medal.

Som and Lewandowski were fortunate to be in the final due to the fall (many are wondering why Kaki was not put in the final). They only finished 7th and 8th in the race, which is hardly a surprise. And their presence made a very physical event even more crowded and random.

Mulaudzi told reporters after the race that he and his coach wanted him to run free and attempt to control the race. An extremely experienced 800m runner, Mulaudzi had one World Championships bronze, one Olympic silver and three world indoor medals to his credit. Three other times at the World Championships, Mulaudzi had failed to medal, but this time he got the gold. As SuperAthletics out of South Africa reported, the man from the same province as women's 800m champion Caster Semenya said, "This is the most important medal for me. Today I was brave enough to control the race and to change the gears in my own time."

Mulaudzi continued, saying, "At the 300m mark the pace was slow so I picked up as I felt the guys were tired, so I took on a long kick so everyone would die before the finish ... and it worked!"

Mulaudzi ability to control the race from the front just barely passed the finish was super craftmanship and he was amply rewarded with the gold medal.

12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day NineKirwa and Kamel Come Close to Golds #2
Both Kirwa and Kamel already have gold medals to their names and they both came really close to gold #2 on Sunday. Kirwa was pleased with his silver and admitted to having some doubts about his chances versus the formidable field. He said, "I was a little bit worried (this morning)." However he was glad to have a medal, "I feel good. In a championship like that the competition is between 200m and the finish area. Winning championships like this is a big privilege."

Kamel has great finishing speed and great genes and he came very close to catching Mulaudzi. However, Mulaudzi managed to hold him off and Kamel was quick to give him credit. Kamel said, "Coming in the stretch I was thinking I could win but the guy kept moving and moving and then he won the race. I'm very happy for the bronze medal."

Kamel may have the family's top personal bests, but his dad still has one more gold medal which Kamel wants to match (his dad had 2 golds and a bronze at 800). He said, "I need one (more medal) to beat him. I really thought I was going to get it tonight."

He said he talked to his dad after his 1500m victory and his dad gave him some advice for his event the 800m. Kamel said of his dad, "He was really happy. He told me 'you have to fight tonight (and get gold #2).' I tried my best"

1 8 969 Mbulaeni Mulaudzi RSA 1:45.29
2 1 741 Alfred Kirwa Yego KEN 1:45.35
3 2 233 Yusuf Saad Kamel BRN 1:45.35
4 4 988 Yuriy Borzakovskiy RUS 1:45.57
5 5 810 Amine Laalou MAR 1:45.66
6 6 1232 Nick Symmonds USA 1:45.71
7 1 856 Bram Som NED 1:45.86
8 8 906 Marcin Lewandowski POL 1:46.17
9 7 732 Jackson Mumbwa Kivuva KEN 1:46.39
10 3 297 Yeimer López CUB 1:47.80

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