2015 World’s Women’s 800 Preview: Eunice Sum should repeat but can America get two medals behind her?

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by LetsRun.com
August 21, 2015

(We apologies for any typos but this was typed on an iphone en route to China as our laptop died)

Tell us if this sounds familiar.

Kenya as a dominant 800 runner who is the overwhelming favoite to win gold. Fastest time in the year? Check. Reigning champion? Check. Undefeated on the year? Check.

No the years isn’t 2012 and we’re not talking about David Rudisha at the Olympics. The year is 2015 and the heavy favorite is Keny’s Eunice Sum. Barring a fall or food-poisoning, we don’t see how Sum loses to someone who doesn’t have internal testicles (more on that in a minute).

Sum has just about everything going for her. On the year, counting prelims, Sum is six for six at 800. Last year, she won 14 of 17 races and the year before that 8 of 9. So she’s 28 for her last 32.

The one woman with an outside legitimate shot of beating Sum, American Ajee Wilson, is out with injury. A real shame for US fans as last year Wilson beat Sum by putting up a world leader in Monaco. If healthy, Wilson seemed like a medallist but gold was a stretch as Sum is 9-1 lifetime against Wilson.

With Wilson out, there are only two women in the field who have run within a full second of Sum’s 1:56.99 this year – Rose Almanza of Cuba (1:57.70) and Selina Buchel of Switzerland (1:57.95). Good luck considering them as potential winners. Almanza failed to medal at Pan Ams where she was 4th and was 7th in Stockholm in her last race. Buchel was 8th in her last race (London).

They are potential medallists but the only woman we could even fathom beating Sum is South Africa’s Caster Semenya – the 2009 World Champ and 2012 Olympic silver medallist. Semenya was born with internal testicles and before being forced to get treatment she was hard to beat at 800 and was a 1:55 performer. Since receiving treatment, she’s been a lot less good.

However, in July, the Court of Arbitration for Sport temporarily suspended the IAAF’s rules on hyperandrogenism. Thus anyone who was receiving hormonal treatments to keep their hormone levels down no longer has to do so (those that opted for a surgical solution (Pamela Jelimo??) are pretty much out of luck as that’s permanent).

Within a week of the ruling, Semenya’s seasonal best improved from 2:04.19 to 2:00.72 (run on August 1). Coincidence? Could she possibly come down another 3+ seconds in 3+ weeks and be a contender in Beijing? We’ll find out shortly.

There is another woman that many believe to impacted by the hyperandrogenism ruling – Kenya’s Margaret Wambui – the 2014 World Junior champ. Wambui, however, only has a 2:00.49 pb. She ran 2:01 this year at the B heat of Pre and hasn’t raced since. She didn’t even run the Kenyan trials but after the CAS ruling came out, she has been entered. It would surprise us more to see her make the jump to the 1:56-7 range but then again she is much younger than Semenya (19 versus 25 for Semanya) and hasn’t hampered by injuries like Semenya (possibly caused by trying to over-train to hit her old times when she had more testosterone).

We talked to a few people who know a thing or two about the delicate issue of hyperandgrogenism and they didn’t really know how long it would take for someone on treatment to return to their old form. A big jump to gold by either of the two seems less likely than them being factors in 2016. 3-4 weeks isn’t much time to get a lot of work in.

After Sum’s gold medal, there are a ton of potential medallists. It’s almost complete wide open. All three of the American entrants certainly have a shot. Two years ago, Brenda Martinez was third. While she’s run 1:59.16 this year, she doest seem to be in quite the same form as 2013. In her last race, she lost to France’s Renelle Lamote and Britain’s Lynsey Sharp, neither of whom can be discounted. The 21-year old Lamote won European juniors and then won in Stockholm over Sharp and Marinez. Sharp was 3rd in the London DL, but more than a second behind Sum.

US champ Alysia Montano surprised herself by winning USAs in her first year back since maternity leave. In reality, there wasn’t maternity leave for Montano as she also ran USAs last year – albeit while 7 months pregnant. After USAs, Montano got the silver at the Pan-Ams to Canada’s Melissa Bishop who certainly is in the medal hunt. And Bishop wasn’t even the Canadian champ – that title went to Fiona Benson who a year ago had a 2:07  pb and wasn’t at Pan Ams as she no idea she should register as a potential runner when the season began. Thankfully, Benson will be at Worlds.

We’re sure many find it surprising that Montano might medal in 2015 – her first year back from having her baby – when she was unable to medal in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In all three of those years, however, Montano came really close to medalling – 4th in 2011 and 2113 and 5th in 2012 – but couldn’t get the job  down.

How is that possible? The sport has been cleaned up. It can easily be argued that Montano should have been the 2012 Olympic champion.

Who beat her? Two Russians (Savinoa and Poistogova) – who by that alone should be viewed as potential dopers – and two athletes to believe to be impacted by hyperandrogenism (Semenya and Jelimo). Montano clearly doesn’t have internal testicles as she just had a baby.

Ajee Wilson’s replacement, Molly Ludlow, also is a medal contender. She’s actually the fastest American on the year in Beijing. Her 1:58.68 sb is fifth best in the field. That’s the good news. The bad news is she was 8th in Stockholm in her last race.

To be honest, we don’t have time to break down the medal contenders as there are too many of them. 25 people on the year have broken 2:00 and 18 of them have run between 1:59 and 2:00 – we present them to you in a table at the end of this article. If you make the final in this one, you are a bronze medal contender. Only 6 entrants have broken 1:59 on the year and we’ve mentioned all of them save for two  – Germany’s Fabienne Kohlmann and Russia’s Anastasiya Bazdyreva. Kohlmann was only third at the World University game which was won by Kiwi Angie Petty. Bazdyreva was only 5th at the European Team Champs which was won by Lamote.

LRC Prediction. Sum Wins. We have no idea after that as it’s wide open. We’ll say Montano and then Semenya. That’s what we want to happen as Alysia deserves a medal after being falsely ednied medals so many times in the past and we’d like to see Semenya excel again so athe bureaucrats realize the entire existence of women’ss sports is at stake if the hyperandrogenism stuff isn’t handled correctly.

The Sub-2 Women in 2015 (Not all are running the 800)

800 m
11:56.99Eunice SumKEN2 Sep 881ArevaSaint-Denis4 Jul
21:57.70Rose M. AlmanzaCUB13 Jul 922ArevaSaint-Denis4 Jul
31:57.87Ajeé WilsonUSA8 May 942PreEugene OR30 May
41:57.95NRSelina BüchelSUI26 Jul 913ArevaSaint-Denis4 Jul
51:58.37Fabienne KohlmannGER6 Nov 89170/571CastelliBellinzona21 Jul
61:58.68Molly LudlowUSA4 Aug 874ArevaSaint-Denis4 Jul
71:58.75Anastasiya BazdyrevaRUS6 Mar 921Team ChSochi29 May
81:59.06Brenda MartinezUSA8 Sep 873PreEugene OR30 May
81:59.06Angie PettyNZL16 Aug 911WUGGwangju10 Jul
101:59.10Chanelle PriceUSA22 Aug 905ArevaSaint-Denis4 Jul
111:59.15Alysia MontañoUSA26 Apr 861NCEugene OR28 Jun
121:59.16 mxLynsey SharpGBR11 Jul 901Trafford GPStretford11 Aug
131:59.26Simoya CampbellJAM1 Mar 942WUGGwangju10 Jul
141:59.37Janeth JepkosgeiKEN13 Dec 83167/472adidasNew York NY13 Jun
151:59.39Renelle LamoteFRA26 Dec 931Rehlingen25 May
161:59.46Sifan HassanNED1 Jan 932Sainsbury’sLondon25 Jul
171:59.52Melissa BishopCAN5 Aug 883SpitzenLuzern14 Jul
181:59.54Christina HeringGER9 Oct 942NCNürnberg26 Jul
191:59.63Natoya GouleJAM30 Mar 911NCKingston27 Jun
201:59.71Raevyn RogersUSA7 Sep 961NCAAEugene OR13 Jun
211:59.90NRAmela TerzićSRB2 Jan 93169/501ETC-2Stara Zagora20 Jun
221:59.91Sahily DiagoCUB26 Aug 952Ponce23 May
231:59.94Fiona BensonCAN25 May 921Portland OR14 Jun
241:59.95Nataliya LupuUKR4 Nov 87170/502StanislasTomblaine1 Jul
251:59.98Abeba AregawiSWE5 Jul 904PreEugene OR30 Ma