W 800/M 1500: Margaret Wambui and Jonathan Sawe Claim Two Golds for Kenya

By LetsRun.com, quotes from Chris Lotsbom, Race Results Weekly
July 24, 2014

Below we recap the women’s 800 and men’s 1500 at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships. Day 3 Photo Gallery here

Women’s 800

Her pacing wasn’t ideal but the result certainly was.

After enduring what can only be described as an extremely painful 64-second last lap, Kenya’s Margaret Wambui upset the second-fastest woman in the world this year, Cuba’s 1:57 performer Sahily Diago, to win gold in the women’s 800 at the 2014 World Junior Championships on Thursday night in Eugene, Ore in a big new personal best of 2:00.49.

Iceland’s World Youth champion Anita Hinriksdottir took Wambui, Diago and Ethiopia’s Zeyituna Mohammed through an incredibly fast 56.33 first lap — faster than the rabbit ran in last week’s Monaco Diamond League meet — and all four runners slowly died over the last lap. In the end, it was Wambui who died least, to hold off Diago (silver 2:02.11) and hard-charging Australians Georgia Wassall (bronze 2:02.71) and Georgia Griffith (fourth 2:04.12) to claim gold. Hinriksdottir, who held the lead until close to 600, so misjudged the opening pace that she ended up a DNF.

Wambui held off Diago and everybody else over the final 100 Wambui held off Diago and everybody else over the final 100

The Race

Hinriksdottir — who led her semifinal through 400 in 60.76 yesterday, only to fade badly to fourth and make the final as a time qualifier — went out much, much faster on Thursday night, giving the top four a gap as they hit 200 in 27.24. By that point, the field was down to seven as Kenya’s Maximila Imali pulled up lame at 150 meters and stepped off the track. The top four had pulled further ahead by the bell, which they hit at a suicidal 56.33, and at that point, Hinriksdottir began to pull away from Wambui and Diago, with Mohammed falling behind in fourth. However, Hinriksdottir could not maintain the suicidal pace and was reeled in and caught on the back stretch.

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At that point, it was down to Wambui and Diago up front, and those two would battle side-by-side through the final turn. Behind them, the Australians Wassall and Griffith were making up a lot of ground after going out more conservatively, but the 10-meter gap was too much for them to overhaul. Diago battled bravely over the final 100, but she just could not match Wambui, who in the end would pull away to win by a comfortable margin of 1.62 seconds.

Wassall couldn’t quite catch Diago, who took the silver, and had to settle for bronze. Griffifth and Morocco’s Sara Souhi would take fourth and fifth while Mohammed and Hinriksdottir would suffer the consequences of the 56-second first lap. Mohammed crossed as the final finisher in sixth in 2:09.38 meaning she went basically 56.5-72.9, while Hinriksdottir failed to finish after she was passed for third, stepping off the track at the start of the home stretch.

Results on the right, our quick take analysis is below.

Details 1 991 Margaret Nyairera WAMBUI KENKEN 2:00.49 PB
Details 2 434 Sahily DIAGO CUBCUB 2:02.11
Details 3 163 Georgia WASSALL AUSAUS 2:02.71
Details 4 176 Georgia GRIFFITH AUSAUS 2:04.12
Details 5 1043 Sara SOUHI MARMAR 2:06.16
Details 6 577 Zeyituna MOHAMMED ETHETH 2:09.38
Details 985 Maximila IMALI KENKEN DNF

Quick Take #1: Races are way more exciting when everyone runs like high schoolers.

Whether it’s the Millrose Mile or a local dual meet, high school races tend to be a lot less tactical than college or pro races.

Let’s be honest. In pro races, not a whole lot happens. The pros almost always have a good sense of pace and they go out reasonably, get in a good spot, save energy and then wait to make a single move late in the race.

Younger athletes often lack the tactical savvy and/or confidence to run in the pack and often want to be in the lead or close to it, especially in a race like the 800. This wasn’t a high school race, but the tactics and splits certainly made it feel like one.

Hinriksdottir, whose PR is 2:00, went out in 27.24 and 56.33. There was no way she was going to be able to hold that pace, but half the field stupidly went with her, ensuring that her overeagerness would have a major impact on the race. It ended up costing Hinriksdottir and Mohammed dearly as neither had any energy left for the final 100.

The 800 is always a matter of who dies the least at the end, but an extremely quick first lap adds another variable into the equation. This ended up being a very exciting race because anything was on the table in the last 200: Diago and Wambui could have just as easily died as well, opening the door for the Australians to come through for gold ansd silver.

The winner Wambui ended up with splits of 56.5-64.0 and won gold, Diago was 56.5-65.6 and won silver, and Mohammed ran a painful 56.5-72.9; Hinriksdottir’s probably would have been even uglier had she finished the race.

If you liked the crazy uneven splits, be sure to tune in for the men’s 800 final on Sunday. It will likely feature Kenya’s Alfred Kipketer, who ran splits of 48.6-59.4 to win World Youths last year, one of the craziest races we’ve ever seen. This year, he almost coughed up gold for Kenya in the 4×800 at the World Relays in May by splitting 49.0-59.8 for a 1:48.8 anchor leg.

Quick Take #2: The athletes had varying reactions to the fast pace.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Hinriksdottir said after the race.  “I ran really bad yesterday and I was lucky to get into the final.”

Anita, we’ll tell you what was wrong with you today. You went out too hard and forced it.

Wassall, on the otherhand, was rewarded for her patience with a bronze medal.

“The other girls got tired, but I executed my race plan and it paid off,” Wassall, who ran 2:02.71, told IAAF interviewers.

Quick Take #3: Wambui has improved rapidly during these championships.

Entering World Juniors, all-athletics.com had just one race listed for the 17-year-old Wambui: a 2:04.24 to take second place at the Kenyan trials on June 25. Wambui matched that time in her prelim on Tuesday, bettered it in her semi yesterday (2:03.72) and blew it out of the water today, running 2:00.49 to win. With more even splits, there’s no doubt Wambui could hop in a Diamond League race right now and break 2:00. When the championships began, it was almost unfathomable that Diago — who has the #2 time in the world in 2014 — wouldn’t win, but Wambui was right with her in their prelim and semi. Diago was still the favorite in the final, but Wambui’s performances in the rounds meant that she was no longer a lock for the title.

Margaret Wambui Celebrates (click for photo gallery) Margaret Wambui Celebrates (click for photo gallery)

Now we know the following isn’t politically correct, but you come to LetsRun for the facts. Wambui’s appearance and rapid improvement reminds some of Caster Semenya in 2009. Entering that year, Semenya had a PR of 2:04.23  and proceeded to drop it all the way down to 1:55.45, winning the African Junior Championships and, ultimately, the World Championships (by over two seconds). Later, an investigation was launched into Semenya’s gender and, according to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, tests revealed that Semenya was intersex: she had no ovaries or uterus and undescended testes.

One of the most discussed threads on the messageboard this week has been this one (Letsrun, do we have another ‘Caster Semenya situation’ in girls 800 at 2014 World Juniors?comparing Wambui to Semenya. This is obviously a sensitive subject, but it will be interesting to see what (if anything) comes of this down the road.

Final note: the IAAF did not post an interview with Wambui to YouTube after the race, but it did so for Diago as well as the other winners on Thursday night. Additionally, we believe that they took down an interview they had originally posted here with Wambui after Wednesday’s semifinal.

The IAAF certainly isn’t doing the sport justice by yanking/not posting interviews of Wambui. With junior competition, a key question is, “Are people the right age?” With women’s competition, a key starting point is, “Are they the right gender?” One would assume these questions have already been answered. Pulling interviews is only going to lead people to believe that in fact they haven’t been answered.

Wambui’s interview after her prelim on Tuesday was still up as of Friday night; we’ve embedded it below.



Sawe With Gold for Kenya Sawe With Gold for Kenya

Men’s 1,500

Kenya grabbed its second gold of the night as Jonathan Sawe won commandingly in the 1,500 in 3:40.02. Sawe won bronze in the 1,500 three years ago at World Youths and upgraded that to gold in Eugene.


The Race

Kenya’s Hillary Ngetich led the field through 400 in 58.23 and with two to go, he and Sawe were running 1-2 with Djibouti’s Abdi Waiss Mouhyadin and Brazil’s Thiago Andre behind in third and fourth. After a pedestrian second lap, those four would break away on the third, and as they hit the bell, Sawe began to push. They came through 1200 in 3:00.03 (58.72 third lap) and at that point Sawe had opened a slight gap on the other three.

As they hit the final turn, Sawe led with his countryman Ngetich just ahead of Andre in second; Mouhyadin lurked a few meters behind in fourth. As Sawe pulled away for a dominant win, Mouhyadin battled hard to make up ground passing Andre and then Ngetich just before the line for silver.


Details 1 982 Jonathan Kiplimo SAWE KENKEN 3:40.02 SB
Details 2 479 Abdi Waiss MOUHYADIN DJIDJI 3:41.38
Details 3 980 Hillary Cheruiyot NGETICH KENKEN 3:41.61 SB
Details 4 277 Thiago ANDRÈ BRABRA 3:42.58
Details 5 156 Zak PATTERSON AUSAUS 3:44.21 PB
Details 6 1330 Jan PETRAC SLOSLO 3:44.39
Details 7 706 Julius LAWNIK GERGER 3:44.96
Details 8 611 Alexis MIELLET FRAFRA 3:45.28
Details 9 1391 William LEVAY SWESWE 3:45.31
Details 10 837 Yemaneberhan CRIPPA ITAITA 3:47.16
Details 11 1097 Roy VAN EEKELEN NEDNED 3:48.57
Details 12 1040 Hassan GHACHOUI MARMAR 3:48.61

Quick Take #1: This was a dominant win in the end for Sawe, but it might not have been had Morocco’s Hassan Ghachoui kept his shoe on.

Just before 900 meters, Ghachoui, whose 3:38 PR was the fastest in the field coming in, stumbled after appearing to trip on Australia’s Zak Patterson. As a result, Ghachoui lost his shoe and by the bell was in last place. He was clearly frustrated after finishing the race in last. Sawe was clearly the best tonight, but it might have been a closer race had the fastest man in the field run all 1,500 meters with two shoes.

Ghachoui was upset after the race A barefoot Ghachoui was upset after the race

*Day 3 Photo Gallery

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