Time to Get Excited for Tomorrow’s 800m Final: Can the USA Get Gold? 5 Things to Consider

by LetsRun.com
August 12, 2013

Moscow, Russia – There is a huge opportunity on Tuesday for the American men to end years of futility in the men’s 800. The US has waited 16-years for a medal of any color for either a man or a woman in the 800. We fully expect that to change on Tuesday at 1:11:43 pm eastern.

The weight for gold has been 41-years. That very well could change as well.

Americans Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds both have to like their chances in the final. They were fourth and fifth in last year’s incredible Olympic final and the top three from the final including world record holder David Rudisha are not here with injury.

More importantly Solomon and Symmonds are both running better in 2013 than they were at this point in 2012. Solomon is the world leader and ran the fastest semi-final ever on Sunday, and Symmonds has beaten Solomon in his last two races.

Here are five things to consider as you get pumped up for this one.

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1) Can Duane Solomon be David Rudisha?
Running from the front without a rabbit, trying to go wire to wire, may appear to be a Herculian task. David Rudisha can do it, but he is nearly Superhuman. If a mere mortal like Solomon tries it, is he just serving himself up as a sacrificial lamb?

Not in the 800.

While no one has been as beautiful as Rudisha last year in London, wire to wire victories are actually quite common in the men’s 800.

We’ve done a little research. 4 of the last 5 wins at Worlds/Olympics have been won by a front-runner. The one non-front wining victory? The extremely tactical 2007 Worlds final where Alfred Kirwa Yego come from fifth at 600 to first at 800.

Below we show you the splits for the last 5 global outdoor 800 championships. The winner in four of them has been in the lead at 400 in all of them (and we think 200 as well, but don’t have video showing the 200 for 2008). We’ve added in Duane Solomon‘s strong semi-final run just for comparison’s sake:


200 400 600 800 3rd 200 last 200
2013 Semis – Solomon 24.38 50.67 1:17.25 1:43.87 26.58 26.62
2012 Olympics – Rudisha 23.8 49.28 1:14.3 1:40.91 25.02 26.61
2011 Worlds – Rudisha 23.81 51.33 1:17.99 1:43.91 26.66 25.92
2009 Worlds – Mulaudzi 25.02 52.44 1:19.8 1:45.3 27.36 25.5
2008 Olympics – Bungei ? 53.35 1:19.18 1:44.65 25.83 25.47
2007 Worlds – Kirwa Yego ? 55.08 1:22.18 1:47.09 27.1 24.91

2) There is no favorite.

There are four guys we think all think they have a great shot at gold. We briefly highlight their plusses and minusses.

1) Mohamed Aman – Ethiopia –

Positives: Had won six straight on the circuit this year. Undefeated on the year, save for a loss to David Rudisha. Only man in world to beat Rudisha in both 2012 and 2011. If he wins, we’re going to look at his stats and wonder why anyone was ever doubting him.

Negatives: Most of his victories have been narrow and hard fought. He was beaten by Solomon and Symmonds in the Olympic final last year. At 700 meters in all of his 800s, this guy has a grimace on his face that makes it look like he’s dead but more times than not, he gets the job done.

2) Duane Solomon – USA –

Positives: The US champion is the 2013 World leader and Monaco DL winner. He’s looked amazing in the semifinals here. Put it together in the final in London last year.
Had lost two straight to Symmonds coming into Worlds. Has had an occasional clunker a few times over the last two years. Was he too good in the semifinals?

3) Nick Symmonds – USA –

Positives: Extremely experienced as he’s been in four straight World/Olympic finals dating to 2009. Had beaten Solomon twice in a row coming in.

Negatives: Has never gotten the job done in the final before. Didn’t looked great in round one here.

4) Ayanleh Souleiman – Djibouti –

Positives: He’s a 3:30.31 1500 runner so he’s unlikely to be tired by the rounds. Showed he could run with Symmonds when they ran a virtual dead-heat in semifinals. Has won every 800 he’s run this year.

Negatives: Can a guy who was really thought of as a miler coming into the year as he had just a 1:47.45 800 pb really emerge as a 20-year old world champion? It does seem a little absurd but it’s hard to write off this type of talent. Remember when Jenny Simpson was viewed as a steepler? Her drop down to the 1500 worked quite well.

On any given day one of these four can beat the other. Consider this, Aman has beaten Solomon thee times this year but lost to him at the Olympics last year, Symmonds has beaten Solomon two straight times this year but lost to him at USAs this year and the Olympics last year, and Souleiman edged Symmonds by .01 in the semifinal.

We asked Solomon if he considered himself to be the favorite as he is the world leader and highest returning finisher from the Olympics, but he said he did not.

Don’t forget these guys
Besides the golden four above we think France’s 21-year old Pierre-Ambroise Bosse will be a factor for a lesser medal. He’s run well this year, but rarely won.

We didn’t know much about Saudi Arabia’s 22-year old Asian Games silver medallist Abdulaziz Mohamed coming in, but he’s run well so maybe he could somehow snag a bronze as well.

The only guys we don’t think are likely to contend for a medal based on what they’ve done this year are Andrew Osagie of Great Britain and Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski.

3) There Will Be No Asterisk Next to the Winner’s Name

The top three from London including 1:40 gold medallist (David Rudisha) and 1:41 silver medallist (Nijel Amos) aren’t here. However, don’t even think about putting an asterisk next to the winners name this year.  The World Champion is the World Champion.

Nick Symmonds made a good point yesterday when he said durability “is an extremely important part of being a distance runner.”

4) Expect a really tight finish.

In researching our table above, we took a look at the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 800 finals. What did we see? Some really, really close finishes when David Rudisha wasn’t in them.

The margin of victory in 2007? .01 of a second.
The margin of vicotry in 2008? .05 of a second.
The margin of victory in 2009? .06 of a second.

If you’ve got some time, watch some of those races on youtube..

There men’s 800 is the most exciting event for us of all of the mid-d and distance events because it is an event that can be won from the front or back (less so than we might have thought as the stats above have showed more recent front winners) and it also is normally extremely tight. Normally everyone is in it at 600 and most often times 700.

We just don’t see how anyone runs way with this race. If this race is won by more than .3 of a second, we think Duane Solomon is the winner. His style is the only one that is likely to result in a big margin of victory.

5) Expect a crazy celebration if an American wins gold.

A gold for the US would end a 41-year drought. An American man or woman hasn’t won a global 800 gold since Dave Wottle did at the 1972 Olympics. In terms of Worlds, there have been no medals of any color since Rich Kenah won bronze in 1997.

The media in the US might not give an American gold a big reaction, but we certainly will and we are pretty confident Nick Symmonds will as well if he’s the winner. Check out what he did win he won the Trials last year:


Nick Symmonds celebrates his victory at the 2012 US Olympic Trials Nick Symmonds celebrates his victory at the 2012 US Olympic Trials

We sure hope everyone including the two Americans has fun in this one as it’s bound to be thrilling no matter the outcome. We’d forgotten what a thrill Symmonds gave us back in 2009 when he came up a little short at Worlds. Watch the video below and you’ll be taken to the last 120 meters where Symmonds was RIGHT THERE (with everyone else as well). We are hoping for a similar race with a slightly different outcome.


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