By David Monti
August 10, 2013
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
MOSCOW (10-Aug) — After the first round of the men’s 800m this morning at the IAAF World Championships, the American team has put three men into the semi-finals, the first time that has happened at these championships since 1995. Building on the momentum from last summer’s Olympic final where Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds placed fourth and fifth, respectively, the Americans feel that they could be in the medals at these championships, especially with the absence of both reigning world and Olympic champion David Rudisha of Kenya, and reigning Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana.
“Going into the Olympics, kind of going in blind, I kind of surprised myself,” Solomon said after winning his heat comfortably this morning in1:45.80, the fourth fastest time posted in the first round. “Now, nothing surprises me.”
Solomon, 28, who holds the season-leading mark of 1:43.27 coming into this meet, has grown in both confidence and ability since last summer’s Olympics. In his eight races since 9 June, he has not finished lower than second, and won the USA title in Des Moines where he set his season’s best. He’s quickly become comfortable as a medal favorite.
“I would have to say so,” he responded to a reporter who asked if he was a medal favorite here. “The way I’ve been running, I’ve been running pretty confident, I’ve been running pretty consistent. So, if I just go out there and run the race I know I can race, then I don’t see too many people beating me. I don’t see anyone beating me, really.”
In addition to Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman, who posted the fastest time of 1:44.93 this morning, and Djibuti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, who won the sixth heat in 1:46.86, one of Solomon’s top rivals for the podium is his own USA teammate, Nick Symmonds. Symmonds, 29, who finished fifth in the 2011 World Championships and sixth in 2009, has had nearly as good a season as Solomon. He’s run sub-1:44 twice and is coming off of a victory at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in London’s Olympic Stadium where he clocked a season’s best 1:43.67.
Symmonds, who won his heat here this morning in 1:46.90 with a controlled stretch run, said his approach has remained the same: stay focused and execute on race day.
“I’ve been doing this for so dang long, I’m used to coming in as a favorite, coming in as an underdog, coming is as a young kid and coming in as a veteran,” Symmonds told reporters. “I said earlier this year, you have to have a lot of different tricks up your sleeve if you’re going to make it to the finals. I’m the only person in the world, I believe, who made the last three global finals. So, I feel like I know what it takes no matter how it goes out.”
The USA’s #3 man is Brandon Johnson, who finished third in the second heat here in 1:46.32. He also expressed confidence going intotomorrow night’s semi-finals.
“I just did what I wanted to do and just qualify,” said Johnson, a former 400m hurdler, who said that his race didn’t take much out of him. “Actually, I’m pretty happy because I thought I was going to end up having to lead my round or do all the work but I don’t know who that guy was out in front (Uganda’s Ronald Musagala), but he did all the work and I just ride the wave.”
The last time an American man won a medal at the IAAF World Championships at 800m was 1997 when Rich Kenah took the bronze, and United States’ men have never won two 800m medals in the same final. But, with three men going sub-1:44 in the USA Championships, Symmonds says the Americans have every reason to be optimistic here.
“One forty-three-nine to make this team is absurd,” Symmonds observed. “It may come down to all three of us being in the finals, in which case I really like our shot at getting a couple of medals. It’s going to be cutthroat.”