Men’s 800 Preview: Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon Look For America’s First Gold in 41 Years

July 31, 2013

What is the significance of September 2, 1972?

That’s the last time a US man won a global 800 meter title when Dave Wottle won gold in Munich at the Olympics.

That very well could change on Tuesday, August 13th when the men’s 800 final is run at the 2013 IAAF Moscow World Outdoor Track and Field Championhips.

The US has two realistic gold medal threats in 2012 Olympic finallists Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon and a third medal prospect in Brandon Johnson.

US Gold Medal Shots? How is That Possible? Addition by Subtraction

Last year’s Olympic final was the greatest 800m race ever run as David Rudisha set the world record and there were a slew of PBs behind him including Americans Duane Solomon in 4th and Nick Symmonds in 5th.  One of the biggest story lines we were looking forward to in 2013 was seeing 2012 Olympic champ and World Record holder David Rudisha try to hold off the three teenage phenoms from last year’s epic Olympic final, particularly Botswana’s Nijel Amos who ran a world junior record of 1:41.73 to nab silver.

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But two of the three teenage phenoms won’t be Moscow and nor will David Rudisha.

2013 Olympic Final
1 David Lekuta Rudisha KEN 1:40.91 (WR) Innjred
2 Nijel Amos BOT 1:41.73 (WJ) 19-year old is injured
3 Timothy Kitum KEN 1:42.53 (PB) 18-year old was only sixth at Kenyan Trials. SB of 1:44.53.
4 Duane Solomon USA 1:42.82 (PB)
5 Nick Symmonds USA 1:42.95 (PB)
6 Mohammed Aman ETH 1:43.20 (NR) – 19-year old has won seven of 8 this year, including 6 straight.
7 Abubaker Kaki SUD 1:43.32 (SB) – No races outdoors
8 Andrew Osagie GBR 1:43.77 (PB) Only 1:45.41 sb and that came in May.

As you can see, all of the medallists from last year’s Olympic final aren’t going to be in Moscow. But the 4-5-6 and finishers from last year’s Olympics are all here and they are the three most likely to win gold.

The Favorite

We can only imagine how Symmonds will celebrate if he wins in Moscow like he did at the Olympic Trials last year.

Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman was only sixth in the Olympic final last year, but he deserves to be considered the favorite.

Yes, Solomon, the world leader, has run faster than Aman this year (Aman is #2 this year at 1:43.33 and Solomon is #1 at 1:43.27), but Aman has beaten Solomon three times this year and lost zero- at Prefontaine, Rome and Morocco. Head to head for their career, Aman has raced Solomon seven times, and beaten him six – the lone loss coming in last year’s Olympic final.

In comparing Symmonds and Aman, career head to head they have two wins apiece and Aman beat Symmonds at Prefontaine in their lone mathcup this year. Now Symmonds is much improved since Prefontaine and even since USAs. (At USA’s Symmonds streak of five straight USATF titles came to an end at the hands of Solomon, but since then Nick has beaten Duane twice.) Aman however has to be the favorite as his body of work is greater this year. He’s won seven of eight races, including six straight. If you’re still not convinced, then this should sway you. Aman is the only man on the planet to beat the great David Rudisha in 2012 and 2011.

We’ll admit that we were a bit worried that Aman was over-racing early in the year but he he’s been solely training since July 4th.

So ranking the Big 3 – we rank them in this order Aman, Symmonds and Solomon.

Anyone else?

While there are quite a few guys we could see getting third, there are only two other guys that we think could conceivably win. Take a look at the 2013 Seasonal best list of Moscow entrants.

The Five Fastest Men In 2013 in Moscow
1 01:43.27 Duane Solomon USA
2 01:43.33 Mohamed Aman ETH
3 01:43.63 Ayanleh Souleiman DJI
4 01:43.67 Nick Symmonds USA
5 01:43.76 NUR Pierre-Ambroise Bosse FRA

We’ve already talked about Solomon, Aman and Symmonds. We haven’t talked about the two other guys in the top 5- Ananleh Souleiman of Djibouti and Pierre-Amborise Bosse.

Both are still quite young. The 21-year old Bosse has a lot of top finishes on the circuit this year. From the start of the season, he’s been fourth in Doha, second in Rome, first in Hengelo, fourth at Gateshead, second in Lausanne, first at European juniors and second in Monaco – just .04 behind Solomon on July 19th.

Souleiman is known primarily as a miler (he’s ranked #5 in the mile at 3:50.07) and we’re not even 100% certain he’s running at the 800. But with no Rudisha and Amos in the 800, and given the fact that the 800 is over before the 1500 even starts, we think the 800 might be hard for Amos to pass up. He came into the year with a 1:47.45 800 pb and has only raced it twice in lower tier meets in Sweden, but he’s dominated both races. In both races, his margin of victory was a dominant 0.68 seconds.

There are a few other guys who might be able to sniff a medal like Brandon Johnson, the 6th fastest man on the year at 1:43.84, but we think only the top 5 guys have a shot at gold.

Round 1 of the 800m starts on Day 1 Saturday at the World Champs.

Quick Thought #1: With Amos and Rudisha out, this is a once in a career opportunity for Symmonds and Solomon. A medal for them isn’t something they are hoping to be if everything goes perfectly as has been the case in year’s past. They both should be disappointed if they don’t get one.

And a medal of any color will be the first for the US’s since August 8, 1997 when Rich Kenah won bronze in Athens.

Quick Thought #2: Even with Amos and Rudisha in, the 800 would be down this year. Last year, there were 16 guys sub 1:44 on the year. This year, there have been just 9 and we doubt 7 new guys do it at Worlds.

Quick Thought #3: Looking for the other guys who might sneak a medal? A good place to start would be to re-read our 2011 Worlds recap and look at the #3 (Yuriy Borzakovskiy), #4 (Marcin Lewandowski), and #6 finishers (Marcin Lewandowski). Borzakovskiy was the 2004 Olympic champ and will have the Russian crowd behind him. He hasn’t broken 1:45 in 2 years however. Does he have one last good run in him?

QT#4: The Kenyan team without Rudisha is very inexperienced. Kenyan Champ Anthony Chemut did run in London last year, not making the final. We can’t find any results for second placer Ferguson Rotich before this year. We think that’s largely because he changed his first name to honor Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United coach. Third placer Jeremiah Mutai was a 1:48 guy who was running the 400m and 400m hurdles the last two years before returning to the 800 this year and he did run a 1:43.9.

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