Nick Symmonds Wins Silver as Mohammed Aman Becomes Ethiopia’s First Ever 800 Gold Medalist – Men’s 800 Recap

Duane Solomon Fades To Sixth After Leading For First 700

August 13, 2013

America’s 16-year wait for a medal in the 800 at the Worlds/Olympics is finally over.

Five time US champion Nick Symmonds secured the silver medal in the men’s 800 final tonight at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Luzhniki Stadium thanks to a season’s best 1:43.55 clocking. Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman powered past Symmonds with 20-25 meters remaining to win gold in a world leading time of 1:43.31, a fitting result considering that world record holder and reigning Olympic champion David Rudisha missed these championships with an injury and Aman was the only person to defeat Rudisha in both 2011 and 2012.

“I feel that I really, really raced for gold and I came up short but I’m happy with the silver knowing that I put myself out there,” said Symmonds after the race.

“(With 50 go) I could feel my legs and each step by getting heavier and heavier and I knew Aman was the kind of athlete that no matter how close you are to the line, he’s going to be digging for it. I did everything I could to get there ahead of him, but he’s tough. He’s the world champion for a reason. He’s won the last six finals he’s been in. He’s a champion but I’m proud of myself for putting myself in a position to win it and there’s no shame in losing to a guy like that.”

Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman rallied from being last near the end of the third turn to secure bronze in 1:43.76, just Djibouti’s third medal ever at these championships.

The US had two legitimate gold medal hopes in the final. Before tonight, the world’s fastest man at 800 was 2013 US champion Duane Solomon (1:43.33 seasonal best). Solomon had the lead entering the final 100 meters but faded down the homestretch. Once out of the medal hunt, he let up at the finish and finished sixth in 1:44.42.

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The Race
The race started as just about everyone expected. American Duane Solomon went to the lead, but there was a bit of a twist as he didn’t get it without being pressed. The top six guys were all tightly bunched within probably .5-6 of each other and the top three were even closer together than that. Aman and France’s 21-year old hope Pierre-Ambroise Bosse were nearly side by side with Solomon as they got to 200, before Solomon took the lead heading into the turn with Aman just behind him and Bosse settling in in third.

The Battle at 400m The Battle at 400m

At 200, Symmonds was in fifth, roughly half a second behind. On the homestretch, Symmonds made a big move close to the 350 mark to move up onto Solomon’s outside shoulder and the two Americans would run 1-2 all the way to the final straight, with Solomon passing through 600 in 1:16.73.

All around the final turn, the two Americans were followed closely by the eventual winner Aman, who’d gotten himself back into a perfect position after having been boxed in a bit around the 500 mark after several guys passed him on the outside.

Halfway around the turn, Symmonds started to move up on Solomon’s outside and after they hit the homestretch Symmonds powered to the lead. But Aman was where he nearly always is when he’s running well, just behind the leader within striking distance and trying to make a move himself. Symmonds kept the lead until about 25 meters remained, but Aman went by and got the win.

100m to Glory in Men's 800m 100m to Glory in Men’s 800m

Behind them Solomon was fading. Souleiman extinguished his medal hopes with roughly 35 meters remaining and then Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski, who had stayed out of the quick opening 200, came by as well to finish fourth in a seasonal best 1:44.08. Solomon then let up at the line and Brit Andrew Osagie grabbed fifth as a result, also in a seasonal best 1:44.36.

Quick Take #1: Symmonds Gets Deserved Silver Nick Symmonds is the only man in the world to make every world final since 2009. He was 6th in 2009, 5th in 2011 and 2012, and now has the Worlds silver around his neck. We started a cottage industry last year of constantly making the point how difficult it was going to be for Symmonds to medal at the Olympics. Symmonds has been so good this year we fully expected him to medal, and like Symmonds himself were a little bummed he didn’t walk away with gold. Oregon Track Club coach Mark Rowland and Symmonds made the Worlds the priority this year solely with the goal of getting a medal. Symmonds started his speedwork later this year than normal and it helped end his streak of five straight USATF titles. That was all forgotten tonight as Symmonds and Rowland were playing a game of chess, not checkers all year.

QT #2: Duane Solomon Comes Up Short  One thing Duane Solomon does not have that Symmonds does is a ton of World Championship race experience. Solomon had never run under 1:45 until the Olympic Trials last year. The lack of experience may have cost him here. Symmonds is an expert of adjusting his race plan on the fly. Tonight, Solomon got out a little faster than he wanted, but he wasn’t confident in adjusting his game plan and his post-race comments indicated that may have cost him a spot on the medal stand (see below).

Post Race Comment (PRC) #1: After the race, Solomon indicated (video and audio interviews here) that he thought he lost the race in the first 200. He thought the other guys did a good job of getting him to go out a bit too quick to grab the lead as he was pushed to the 200 pole by both Aman and Souleiman.

“I just went out too quick. 22. I think that’s ridiculous. I didn’t race smart today. I think it was my competitor’s game plan to take me out quick and then back off. They took it out in 22 and then backed off,” said Solomon. “It took me out of my game plan a little bit, but once I was already there, there is no backing off. I just had to try to keep it (going). I’m just surprised as long as I held it – 700 or whatever I did I’m only human. I don’t think anyone can hold that pace and the try to close.”

In reality, the pace wasn’t that fast. The weird thing is Symmonds also after the race thought the early splits were much faster than they were.

“I thought it was going to string out so much more than that. Coming down the homestretch on the first lap, I was like, ‘Why is it so bunched up? Is it slow?’ and I started to make my move to get up on Duane’s soldier because I thought maybe we’d slowed down but we came through in 49 point. It’s just the world championship and everyone wanted to take advantage of the fact that the King himself isn’t here. You know I took a lot of comfort from Duane being in that race and knowing what he was going to do and I really keyed off of him for 700 meters.

We’re not sure if the on-track clock was behind or placed in a different place than normal (if you can figure it out, please post on our messageboard) but both US athletes were wrong about the splits. Symmonds said in one of the interviews that he thought he his 600 in 1:15, when in reality it wasslower than that. We went back and watched the race replay and came up with the following splits for Symmonds:

50.3 (he was directly to the side of Solomon and FAT was 50.28)

While the splits weren’t as fast as Solomon and Symmonds thought, the fact is the opening 200 may have been a little too quick for Solomon. When he ran 1:43.87 in the semifinals, he went out in 24.38 versus the 23.65 tonight. 23.65 is actually faster than David Rudisha went out in his world record run in the Olympics last year.





2013 Semis Solomon





2013 Finals Solomon





2012 Olympics Rudisha





All of that being said, the best man won the final tonight. Aman was out just as hard as Solomon for the first 190 meters and still won the race. In pre-race preview after the semis, we wrote the following about Aman, ” If he wins, we’re going to look at his stats and wonder why anyone was ever doubting him.”

That certainly is true. Coming in, Aman had won six straight this summer including three Diamond league 800s. For their careers, Symmonds and Solomon have two DL titles to their name combined.

PRC #2: Aman was obviously thrilled to have won.

“I am very happy. I am the first Ethiopian to win 800 gold medal,”said Aman.

Not only is he the first gold medalist for Ethiopia at 800, he is their first medalist of any color at Worlds or the Olympics in the event – men or women. Yes, that’s right. Ethiopia had never medalled at all in the 800 before.

Post-race, Aman said he wanted Solomon to go out fast, not necessarily to wear him out, but to make sure the race didn’t bunch up too much like in the semi-finals, when Aman got boxed in. (All of our post-race videos are here).

PRC #3: After the race, Symmonds gave his interviews with the American flag wrapped around his back. You can listen to two separate interviews we had with him. Interview #2 one is here (audio only), interview two is here (audio and video) and embedded below.

“Finally. It took me six of these (Worlds/Olympics) and four finals get one of these (American flags) but I’ve got one and it feels phenomenal.

PRC #4: What’s next for Solomon and Symmonds? Symmonds said enthusiastically that in his mind his season is just getting started. He hopes to run some European track races and end things at the 5th Avenue mile. As for Solomon, he sounded like his season is over. He’s going to become a father for the first time at the end of the year and is moving to Orlando from LA as his coach Johnny Gray has relocated there.

Speaking of Solomon, Symmonds repeatedly praised his US rival. In one interview Symmonds said, “I’m disappointed for Duane. My hat goes off to him. I don’t know if I could have been the silver medalist without him in that race. It would have been an absolute cluster and I would have been fighting like I have the last three finals.” When Symmonds started off talking to the US print media, he started with praise and disappointment for Duane.

PRC #5: Did you notice there were no Kenyans in the final? Ace stat man Ken Nakamura did. He has figured out this is first final since 1995 that there was no Kenyan in the final but that final was of course won by former world record holder Wilson Kipketer who was born in Kenya. The last time a non-Kenyan born male wasn’t in a men’s 800 Worlds final? The very first Worlds in 1983.

PRC# 6: In the past, Nick Symmonds has gone on a date with Paris Hilton and been known to enjoy at beer mile. Wonder how he’s going to celebrate tonight? Probably not how you think.

He has an 8 am appearance tomorrow morning for Nike so tonight will be spent with the family.

More: *2013 Men’s 800 Photos

1 414 Mohammed Aman ETH 01:43.31 SB
2 1169 Nick Symmonds USA 01:43.55 SB
3 343 Ayanleh Souleiman DJI 01:43.76
4 863 Marcin Lewandowski POL 01:44.08 SB
5 498 Andrew Osagie GBR 01:44.36 SB
6 1167 Duane Solomon USA 01:44.42
7 444 Pierre-Ambroise Bosse FRA 01:44.79
8 745 Abdulaziz Ladan Mohammed KSA 01:46.57
Splits: Solomon 23.65, 50.28, 1:16.73.

World Championships 2013

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