Boris Berian’s Gutsy Run Gets 800m Gold At World Indoors 2016; Bronze for Erik Sowinski

March 19, 2016 

PORTLAND, Ore. — American Boris Berian put on an impressive display of wire-to-wire running to win the gold in the 800 at the 2016 World Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Oregon Convention Center.

Berian took it out in a super quick 23.92 and by 400m (49.73) he had opened a big gap on the field. He still had a big gap at 600m (1:17.37) but would he tie up on the final lap? No. He held on for a comfortable victory in 1:45.83 and got a slight assist on the final turn when Antoine Gakeme and Musaeb Balla, who were his two closest pursuers, clipped each other and lost stride momentarily.

Boris Berian Gets Gold (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)" Boris Berian Gets Gold (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)

Berian held up well down the homestretch so the guys behind him getting tangled up probably wouldn’t have made a difference in terms of the gold medal. However, Balla’s losing stride helped fellow American Erik Sowinski come up and nab the bronze in 1:47.22.

Results and analysis below.

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Quick Take #1: Berian Front-Runs His Way To Gold

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Boris Berian is known for taking it out hard and leading, so it wasn’t surprising to learn that was his plan going into this race. Berian said, “[My gameplan] was simple, just take the lead right away and hang on. That’s how I feel more comfortable racing and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.” Talking about whether he was afraid he’d get caught at the end, Berian said that he started tightening up with 150m to go, but that “the home crowd kept me going and got me gold.” We’re glad Berian front-ran today as yesterday in the first round, he didn’t front-run and was fortunate to get into the final as a time qualifier.

As far as how fast he went out (23.92 for 200, 49.73 for 400), Berian wasn’t too worried about it or giving it a lot of thought. He said the plan was just to get out “The original plan was just getting out right away. I wasn’t really focused on what time that was going to be. Whether it be 26, 24, 23, I just wanted to get out in front… I was just excited to be representing USA. … I stayed positive, trusted in my training and hung on.”

Quick Take #2: Berian Proves He’s A Championship Racer

We were impressed with Berian’s race, not just because he finished first, but because of the way he ran it and because it shows he can run rounds successfully. Last year, after having a breakthrough season where he ran 1:43 behind David Rudisha at the adidas Grand Prix, he completely bombed USA outdoors and didn’t even make the final. There was concern Boris couldn’t perform successfully with rounds. Well, soloing a 1:45.83 indoor PR here the day after a 1:48.55 prelim negates that fear although the first round here was far from perfect.

Now all that’s left is mastering front-running in the prelims without running so hard it kills him for the final.

Quick Take #3: Erik Sowinski – From Special Entry To World Medalist

Erik Sowinski got a special entry to this meet as he had not hit the qualifying standard. He left with a bronze medal. Asked what he felt about it, he said, “Man, it’s awesome. I can’t even put it into words. I’m just excited and thankful.”

Sowinski credited Berian with setting up and controlling the race, saying “He ran a heck of a race and kind of set it up for me to sneak in there for bronze.”

Sowinski said he would have liked to be more in contention, but was too far back and had to make a lot of moves going “inside of lanes, outside of lanes,” but was able to “take advantage” of the other guys getting tangled up on the last lap. He knew that Berian would take it out fast and planned on being in the top three on the first lap, but it was so fast he found himself farther back and knew that “he had to bide his time” and that “guys were going to fade a little bit”.

Quick Take #4: Let’s Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves, It’s “Only” Indoor

Boris Berian’s gutsy victory tonight was very impressive, but before we get too carried away projecting what he might do this summer, it’s fair to point out that two years ago at these championships Chanelle Price won gold, but hasn’t translated that success to outdoors. She followed the 2014 world indoor gold with a win as part of the US 4×800 team at World Relays, but then didn’t run the final at USAs that year due to injury and in 2015 she was only 5th at USAs. She did win the NACAC Championships last year, but that’s a far cry from a medal at Worlds.

Our point is, World Indoor is not World Outdoors or the Olympics. This race was missing most of the big names like David Rudisha, Amel Tuka and Nijel Amos and Mo Aman wasn’t in great shape. American fans should be excited and celebrate this accomplishment, but the US still has a lot of work to do to get just one medal of any color at the Rio Olympics.

Quick Take #5: The Cost of Sponsoring Boris Berian Just Got a Lot Higher

Before this meet it was at least a little ridiculous that as a 1:43.34 runner (5th fastest American of all time) Berian didn’t have a sponsor. But now, after a gold-medal performance at a home world championships, the cost of sponsoring Berian just got higher.

Quick Take #6: Antoine Gakeme wanted to honor Burundi after earning silver tonight

As he was after yesterday’s semis, Gakeme was all smiles after earning silver tonight, just the second medal ever at these championships by a man from Burundi (Charles Nkazamyampi earned the same exact medal — silver in the 800 — 23 years ago).

Gakeme said that the contact with Balla on the final turn didn’t affect him and was pleased to get the silver medal.

After the race, Gakeme placed the Burundian flag on the track, put his bouquet on top of it and then dropped to the ground in celebration. He said that was to show everyone in the arena — and around the world the colors of the flag.

1 370 Boris BERIAN USAUSA 1:45.83 SB
2 124 Antoine GAKEME BDIBDI 1:46.65 SB
3 394 Erik SOWINSKI USAUSA 1:47.22
4 196 Mohammed AMAN ETHETH 1:47.97
5 319 Musaeb Abdulrahman BALLA QATQAT 1:48.31
6 278 Mostafa SMAILI MARMAR 1:52.32
 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)" (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)
Erik Sowinski and Boris Berian Celebrate Their Medals (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)" Erik Sowinski and Boris Berian Celebrate Their Medals (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)
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