August 12, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — The first individual running event on the track in Rio this morning was the men’s 800 heats. If you judge the results based on 2016 best times, then there were no major casualties as all of the top 10 fastest entrants advanced as an auto qualifier (top 3 in each heat + best 3 times from each of 7 heats) to tomorrow’s semifinals.
However, there was a big casualty as 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos was eliminated after a horrendous 1:50.46 7th place showing in heat #6. Amos, who ran 1:41.73 as a teenager to snag silver in London, came into Rio as the #11 seed at 1:44.66. In his last two races, he’d won the African champs in 1:45.13 and then run his seasonal best of 1:44.66 for 4th in London.
U.S. champ Clayton Murphy did not have his usual late kick in heat three and threw his arms to his head in despair as he crossed the finish line in fourth. Murphy was granted a reprieve, however, as his 1:46.18 held up as one of the three time qualifiers.
Here’s how the top 10 seeds fared today.
2016’s Fastest 800 Performers (among men entered)
- David Rudisha, Kenya 1:43.35 – looked great winning heat #3
- Alfred Kipketer, Kenya 1:43.73 – won heat #4
- Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, France 1:43.88 – won heat #7
- Taoufik Makhloufi, Algeria 1:43.92 – looked great winning heat #5
- Brandon McBride, Canada 1:43.95 – won heat #6
- Ferguson Cheruiyot, Kenya 1:44.05A – 2nd in heat #2
- Ayanleh Souleiman, Djibouti 1:44.06 – winner of heat #1
- Boris Berian, USA, 1:44.20 – 3rd in heat #1
- Adam Kszczot, Poland, 1:44.49 – winner of heat #2
- Marcin Lewandowski, Poland, 1:44.59 – 2nd in heat #6
The biggest story of the prelims was how good defending champ David Rudisha looked in heat 3. He controlled his prelim from 200 on and led all qualifiers in 1:45.09 (almost even-split at 52.36/52.73). Afterwards, Rudisha said that though his results don’t necessarily show it all the time, he’s been training great this year and this is the best he’s felt since the knee injury that cost him the 2013 season. That’s a scary thought given Rudisha won Worlds last year.
“This year, I can say there’s a huge difference,” Rudisha said. “I feel like I’m in better form… almost close to my good years, 2010 to 2012.”
The semifinals are on Saturday at 9:08 p.m. ET. Start lists are here.
We quickly recap the heats for you below.
Heat 1: Berian Advances
World indoor champ Boris Berian did what he’s best at – run at on honest pace. He took the field trough 400 in 50.78 and 600 in 1:18:18. Berian would be passed in the final 100 by two bronze medallists Ayanleh Souleiman (2013) and Amel Tuka (2015) but was rewarded with the third auto qualifying spot.
Quick Thought #1: Berian said not to worry — he shut it down once he was assured of qualifying
Berian was checking the video board late in the race to see how hard he needed to close, and once he saw he had a top-three place locked up, he started slowing down to conserve energy for tomorrow’s semifinals.
Berian said he feels that his speed is the best it’s been all year, though he admitted he’s not as confident about his strength. It will certainly be tested as he navigates three rounds here.
It was somewhat amusing that Berian was wearing Nike on his shoulder today after fighting all summer not to wear their uniform, but it’s not something Berian’s thinking about.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Berian. “I’m here representing the U.S. If I have to wear that, then all right.”
Tuka who got the bronze last year at Worlds said he has not run as fast this year, yet but that is because he has been more focused on training. His goal here is to get into the final and then see what happens.
|1||2317||Ayanleh SOULEIMAN||DJI||1:45.48 Q|
|2||2107||Amel TUKA||BIH||1:45.72 Q|
|3||3050||Boris BERIAN||USA||1:45.87 Q|
|4||2134||Kleberson DAVIDE||BRA||1:46.14 q|
|2176||Abraham Kipchirchir ROTICH||BRN||DQ RIAAF 163.3a|
Heat 2: Kszczot Looks Good
Colombia’s Rafith Rodriguez did the early leading here (25 and 52.79) as 2015 silver medallist Adam Kszczot of Poland (who was wearing a T-shirt and not a singlet) and Kenyan Ferguson Rotich were content to run in the back. The Pole and Kenyan moved up just before 600 and went on to go 1-2 with ease with Kszczot looking particularly good. The University of Florida’s Andres Arroyo (running for Puerto Rico) surprised and advanced in third.
Rotich, who was at the center of controversy yesterday when it came out that a Kenyan coach wearing his credential took a drug test for him, did not stop to talk in the mixed zone.
Ksczcot said his training is going well and he intends to be contending for the medals in the final.
|1||2843||Adam KSZCZOT||POL||1:45.83 Q|
|2||2695||Ferguson Cheruiyot ROTICH||KEN||1:46.00 Q|
|3||2870||Andrés ARROYO||PUR||1:46.17 Q|
|4||2336||Hamada MOHAMED||EGY||1:46.65 q|
Heat 3: Rudisha Looks Great
Reigning World and Olympic champ David Rudisha wanted the lead and got it by running a quick 200 in 24 high/25 flat. After he got the lead, he slowed it down as it bunched up on the turn and American Clayton Murphy almost went down as the runner ahead of him stumbled, which resulted in Murphy running into him and having to do his best to not fall.
As the runners entered the third turn after hitting 400 in 52.36, Murphy encountered more contact – although this was of his own making as he seem to throw a shove with his left arm (maybe to protect his position or maybe because he simply got tangled up?) to the guy on his inside.
On the backstretch, Rudisha started to gap the field and had 5 meters on everyone at 800 in 1:18.80. He’d cruise to victory. Murphy, who was in 4th coming into the final straight, didn’t show his patented big finish and finished 4th but would advance as one of the three time qualifiers.
Quick Thought: If Murphy is going to run from the back, he needs to be more patient and do it Nick Symmonds-style. Here he wasted a lot of energy running turn #2 and turn #3 in lane 2. At this level, you almost have to just run with the pack for 600 and see what you’ve got the final 200 rather than waste energy.
|1||2696||David Lekuta RUDISHA||KEN||1:45.09 Q|
|2||2911||Rynardt VAN RENSBURG||RSA||1:45.67 Q||SB|
|3||2470||Michael RIMMER||GBR||1:45.99 Q|
|4||3091||Clayton MURPHY||USA||1:46.18 q|
Heat 4: Kipketer Advances
19-year-old Kenyan phenom Alfred Kipketer, the 2013 World Youth and 2014 World Junior champ who won the Kenyan Trials this year, took it out in 25.2 and 53.52 with Charles Jock in 6th. On the back stretch, Puerto Rico’s Wesley Vazquez tried to take the lead and Kipketer immediately responded. Kipketer and Algeria’s Yessine Hethat hit 600 in 1:20.42. Kipketer would get the heat win, Hethat would hold on for third as Denmark’s Andreas Bube moved up for 2nd. American Charles Jock moved up in the final 100 and was close to the top 3 at the finish (just .25 away) but he didn’t advance as this was slowest of the first four heats.
Quick Thought #1: Charles Jock expected to advance but didn’t put himself in good enough position
Look at Jock’s results this year and it’s hard to understand how he made it to the Olympics. He’s run eight 800’s this year and broken 1:47 in exactly one — the Olympic Trials final. There are a few reasons for that.
Jock revealed that he’d been dealing with a hamstring injury a month before the Trials and after the Trials he underwent a blood test that revealed elevated levels of creatine kinase (CK) — a sign of stress. Over the past month, he rejiggered his diet and tried to sleep better in order to prepare for Rio, but with the time changes and travel to Europe, his results were still poor (1:48 in both European races).
Jock didn’t let his results affect him heading into this one and said he was expecting to make it to the semis today.
“I felt good in the race, I felt good kicking. I just didn’t put myself in good position,” Jock said. “I waited too long to start moving. It’s hard to kick down a field like this.”
|1||2681||Alfred KIPKETER||KEN||1:46.61 Q|
|2||2311||Andreas BUBE||DEN||1:46.67 Q|
|3||2005||Yassine HETHAT||ALG||1:46.81 Q|
|4||2355||Álvaro DE ARRIBA||ESP||1:46.86|
|8||2884||Yiech Pur BIEL||ROT||1:54.67|
|2545||Joshua ILUSTRE||GUM||DQ RIAAF 163.3a|
Heat 5: Amos Goes Home
This heat was very slow. It went out in a pedestrian 27 and 56.41 with Nijel Amos in 4th and Olympic 1500 champ Taoufik Makhloufi a few spots behind him. Amos was in third and Makhloufi in 4th at 600 (1:24.01). Over the final 200, Makhloufi did what you’d expect – move up and win the heat — while Amos did what you wouldn’t expect – fade to next to last. Wow.
Quick Thought #1: Is Makhloufi in supreme form yet again at the Olympics?
As Tim Hutchings said on the NBCSN broadcast, “Boy, that is a little bit intimidating – that form of Makhloufi.”
Quick Thought #2: Nijel Amos is out, but still optimistic
Amos wasn’t entirely clear in his interview about why he’s struggled this year, but we were able to gather that he was sick in between the Doha Diamond League meet in May 6 (where he ran the 4×400) and the African Champs in Durban June 22-24. He also said he “destroyed” his calf earlier this season and pointed to the tape he was wearing during today’s race. Still, Amos is only 22 years old (he was 18 when he claimed Olympic silver in London) and thinks that he’s still capable of greatness.
“Definitely I’m still confident about the future,” Amos said. I’m still young, I’m still on this game. If God has meant for me to win, one day, a championship, a title, I will definitely get it.”
|1||2009||Taoufik MAKHLOUFI||ALG||1:49.17 Q|
|2||2749||Mostafa SMAILI||MAR||1:49.29 Q|
|3||2595||Giordano BENEDETTI||ITA||1:49.40 Q|
Heat 6: McBride Bruises
Brandon McBride took it out in 25 mid and 51.83. McBride continued to run fast and had a 5-meter gap on the field at 600 (1:18.65) and would hold on to dominate the field in 1:46.00. After he finished he put his finger up to his mouth and mugged for the camera. Marcin Lewandowski, who went out very slow and was 7 meters behind third with 500 meters to go, moved up nicely to get second. He was followed the whole time by the Steve Magness-coached Mark English of Ireland.
HEAT 6 12 AUG 2016 10:50 PLEASE CLICK ON A ROW BELOW TO VIEW MORE INFORMATION
|1||2204||Brandon MCBRIDE||CAN||1:45.99 Q|
|2||2844||Marcin LEWANDOWSKI||POL||1:46.35 Q|
|3||2583||Mark ENGLISH||IRL||1:46.40 Q|
|5||2875||Abubaker Haydar ABDALLA||QAT||1:47.81|
|2738||Abdelati EL GUESSE||MAR||DNF|
Heat 7: Bosse is the Boss
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and 2013 world champ Mo Aman took this baby out in a pedestrian 26 and 55.99 but everyone behind them was content to let them jog – very polite. Bosse led at 600 in 1:22.65. Heading into the final 100, Aman had fallen back to third – would he go home like Amos? Aman picked it up and took the 2nd auto spot.
|1||2415||Pierre-Ambroise BOSSE||FRA||1:48.12 Q|
|2||2388||Mohammed AMAN||ETH||1:48.33 Q|
|3||2002||Amine BELFERAR||ALG||1:48.40 Q|
|2877||Musaeb Abdulrahman BALLA||QAT||DNS|