May 14, 2016
Note: We recap the rest of the meet here.
If you didn’t watch the men’s 800 live at the 2016 IAAF Diamond League track and field meeting in Shanghai today, and only looked at the results, then you have no idea what happened.
The results will forever show that Olympic champ and world record holder David Rudisha was beaten by four men in the men’s 800. Rudisha, who had the lead coming off the final turn, was passed on the inside by race winner Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, who won in 1:45.68. Robert Biwott, the 2013 World Youth champ at 1500 who won this race two years ago, was second in 1:45.84 with Alfred Kipketer, who like Rotich was a 2015 World Championship finalist, third in 1:45.93. Near the line, knowing he was beaten, Rudisha stopped trying, which allowed him to be nipped by Thijmen Kupers of the Netherlands (1:46.23 to Rudisha’s 1:46.24). American Nick Symmonds was a total nonfactor. He trailed throughout and ended up 10th in 1:48.39.
But in reality, Rudisha was beaten by the race’s starter. Television commentator Steve Cram summed up this race perfectly about 300 meters into it by saying, “What a farce.” You see the race was started when several runners, most notably Rudisha and the rabbit Bram Som, weren’t ready for the start. When the gun went off, Rudisha had both of his arms on his hips. Shocked that the gun had been fired, he gingerly took a step or two before putting his arms out wide in protest and looking over his shoulder to see if the starter was going to restart the race.
Rudisha received no such reprieve and while he’d been jogging forward during his entire protest, he only started running all-out roughly three full seconds after the gun went off. How much time did he spot the field? 10 meters? 15 meters? (At 1:45 800 pace, runners run 7.6 meters per second)
Judge for yourself (Rudisha is in lane 8, second from outside).
— LetsRun.com (@letsrundotcom) May 14, 2016
Amazingly, Rudisha ended up in the lead by 200 and Som, in a truly Herculean effort as he started much later than Rudisha, had the lead by 300. Ignoring Som (who dropped out just after 400), Rudisha would keep the lead until the homestretch as he passed 400 in just under 53 (Som was 52.68) and 600 in 1:19.68.
Maybe the Rudisha of 2012 could spot the field 10+ meters (we doubt it as the margin of victory at the 2012 Olympics was just .82) but not the Rudisha of 2016. For Rudisha, this race was lost in the first three seconds. After it was over, Rudisha was justifiably upset and shaking his head. For the second week in a row, the starter for an IAAF Diamond League men’s mid-distance race had failed to do his job properly. Last week in Doha, the men’s 1500 wasn’t restarted even though Ryan Gregson went down at the start.
“I am so upset! I lost 2 seconds because of the start. There were high jumpers in the lane and they start[ed the race],” said Rudisha after the race.
Rotich, on the other hand, was thrilled to have won. He put his arm up in triumph near the finish line and was full of smiles, likely not knowing that Rudisha got a late start.
Our quick take analysis and results appear below.
1. Ferguson Cheruiyot ROTICH KEN 89 1:45.68
2. Robert BIWOTT KEN 96 1:45.84
3. Alfred KIPKETER KEN 96 1:45.93
4. Thijmen KUPERS NED 91 1:46.23
5. David RUDISHA KEN 88 1:46.24
6. Antoine GAKEME BDI 91 1:46.35
7. Rynhardt VAN RENSBURG RSA 92 1:46.69
8. Erik SOWINSKI USA 89 1:47.22
9. Michael RIMMER GBR 86 1:47.44
10. Nick SYMMONDS USA 83 1:48.39
11. Job KINYOR KEN 90 1:48.85
– Bram SOM NED 80 DNF
400m – 52.68 (Som)
600 – 1:19.68 (Rudisha)
Quick Take #1: We are reading close to zero into this loss for Rudisha.
The television commentators were talking how about this was a shock loss for Rudisha as he needs to be able to win tactical races like this. We 100% disagree. No one can win a professional 800 when they don’t run hard for the first three seconds.
One could argue that Rudisha should be feeling good about his chances moving forward as the winning time was over 1:45. Coming into this race, Rudisha thought he could run 1:43.50. If that’s true, and it might be as he ran 1:46.24 without going all-out at both the beginning and end of the race, then he’s got little to worry about as no one in this field broke 1:45.
As for the botched start apparently there were high jumpers on the track. Bram Som said, “There was high jumpers and javelin throwers on the track and I held my hand up for the starter to stop the race. He did but then the race started. I was waiting for a recall but it never came and I was 30m behind the field.”
Quick Take #2: On the other hand, Nick Symmonds doesn’t have a good excuse for his 1:48. He was just awful but it doesn’t concern us in the least.
If you watch the replay of the start above, you’ll see that Symmonds got off to a decent start. (He told organizers, “The only thing I thought was: we have to go!! I’ve got a perfect start!”) The start certainly isn’t the reason why he ran 1:48. Coming into this race, we knew that Symmonds was playing catch-up and it looks like he’s got some work still to do. That being said, Symmonds gets in shape very quickly. Last year, on this very same day, May 14, Symmonds opened up even worse – 1:49.31 (though he had an excuse there as a fall threw off his momentum). Nine days later, in his only other 800 before USAs, he ran 1:46.37. Five weeks after that, he was your U.S. champion.
Talk about this meet on our fan forum / message board: MB: Official 2016 Shanghai DL Live Discussion Thread.