Pierre-Ambroise Bosse Pulls Off Upset and Wins Men’s 800 Title At 2017 World Track and Field Championships
August 8, 2017
LONDON – With the likes of world record holder David Rudisha out with injury and world leader Emmanuel Korir of Kenya having failed to make the final, the men’s 800 meters was there for taking tonight at the 2017 IAAF World Championships and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France took full advantage of the opportunity. Bosse, 25, made a big move from sixth to first between 500 and 600 and then never looked back once in the lead as he closed in 26.99 to win comfortably in 1:44.67.
Noted closer Adam Kszczot of Poland, the 2015 silver medallist, earned silver once again as the 27-year-old closed well to move up from fifth to second over the final 200 (1:44.95) as Kenya’s Kipyegon Bett, the 19-year-old who won World Juniors last year, took the bronze in 1:45.21. Just .04 back of Bett was surprising Brit Kyle Langford, who nearly stole a medal with a furious close as he went from last to 4th in a new personal best of 1:45.25 (previous pb of 1:45.45) in the final 100.
2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos, the second fastest man in the world for 2017 (1:43.18 sb) and betting favorite, faded to a disappointing fifth after running virtually the entire race in the top three.
As many expected, Canada’s Brandon McBride, the 2014 NCAA indoor and outdoor champion for Mississippi State, grabbed the early lead and acted as the unofficial rabbit, taking the field through 400 in 50.78, followed closely by Amos (50.89) and Bett (51.04). As the runners came off the penultimate turn and ran down the backstretch, McBride gave up the lead as he’d ultimately fade to a last-place finish (1:47.09). Bett led briefly but the big mover on the backstretch was Bosse. Just 6th at 400 (51.39) and 500, he accelerated sharply and rolled up everyone on the field and had the lead by 600 (1:17.68) thanks to a 26.29 200. The big move hadn’t taken too much out of him as Bosse’s lead would gradually increase to the finish.
As Bosse came off the final turn, he had a meter or two on Bett and Amos who in turn had 2-3 meters on Ethiopia’s Mo Aman (6th 1:46.06), the 2013 world champ who was about a meter up on Kszczot. During the final 100, Bosse gradually pulled away from Bett as Amos began to struggle. The only people moving really quickly were Kszczot and Langford, who had only broken 1:46 twice in his life before Worlds, but did so for the second time in three days tonight.
1 Pierre-Ambroise BOSSE FRA FRA 1:44.67 SB
2 Adam KSZCZOT POL POL 1:44.95 SB
3 Kipyegon BETT KEN KEN 1:45.21
4 Kyle LANGFORD GBR GBR 1:45.25 PB
5 Nijel AMOS BOT BOT 1:45.83
6 Mohammed AMAN ETH ETH 1:46.06
7 Thiago ANDRÈ BRA BRA 1:46.30
8 Brandon MCBRIDE CAN CAN 1:47.09
Results and analysis below.
Quick Thought: We can’t believe that more people didn’t step up in this race
France’s Bosse is the world champion and deservedly so as he dominated the final 200. However, it’s pretty mind-boggling that he was able to win going away in just 1:44.67 in a race where Brandon McBride basically rabbitted the field through 400 in 50.71. If you broke 1:45, you ended up with a silver medal. The early pace wasn’t slow, yet the winning wouldn’t have been unbelievable for an NCAA Championship.
After Bosse crossed the finish line, he pointed at himself with a quizzical look on his face as shown here:
In our post-race interview with him, he said that today’s race was like a dream.
“It felt like a dream,” Bosse said. “You know when a nightmare, somebody gonna catch you, but they never catch you, you know? You know the end. Finally, you never be caught. And I [was] not. So I knew the end before it [ended].”
We don’t blame him if he needed to pinch himself to make sure it was real. Make no mistake about it, Bosse is a talent but the fact that he was able to dominate in 1:44.67 is shocking.
In 2012 at age 20, Bosse ran 1:44.
In 2013 at 21, he ran 1:43.
In 2014, he ran 1:42.
Yet a global medal had always eluded him as rest of the world was just better. In 2013, he’d run 1:43 before Worlds and ended up 7th. In 2015, he’d run 1:42 and ended up 5th. Last year, he ran 1:43 in both the Olympic semis and finals and ended up just fourth.
This year, he changed coaches and went into Worlds having only broken 1:45 once on the year (1:44.72 in Monaco) as he didn’t race until June 28 due to injury. He finished 5th, 7th and 4th in his three pre-Worlds races and was only second and third in the first two rounds at Worlds. He needed a time qualifier just to get into the final. Tonight’s World Championship final was his first victory all year, including prelims. And yet he won Worlds by a lot – even though he barely bettered his season’s best. Incredible.
Bosse won by running a smart race. Our favorite mantra about the 800 is, ‘you’ve only got one move, use it wisely” and Bosse certainly did that. He ran a very relaxed and patient first 500. There was a bunch of shoving as the runners approached 200. Bett threw out his arms to prevent Bosse from getting into a perfect spot right on the rail behind McBride. So Bosse just relaxed and settled in on the rail in fifth instead of wasting energy with a fight in the first 25% of the race. He also got to save ground by running all of the turns on the inside as he was patient until 500 when he went hard and got the lead.
Bosse’s unofficial splits were 24.4, 27.0, 26.3, 27.0.
Bosse is entertaining when speaking to the media and said, “The others killed themselves and they were already dead in the last 100m. I was like a witch casting a spell on them.”
Quick Thought: Adam Kszczot has a message for anyone calling this a weak field — the 800 is hard
Kszczot, as he did in Beijing two years ago, closed well for the silver, but he admitted that he underestimated just how good Bosse was on this night.
“I was really sure that I [was] going to win,” Kszczot said. “About 120 to go, I saw Pierre was a little bit too far and I knew that [it] was going to be very hard but I tried.”
Kszczot also said he was appreciative of the fact that he was able to medal in two straight World Championships. Given the 800’s unpredictable nature and the brutal qualifying rounds (going from 24 in the semis down to 8 in the final is always tough), not many athletes have been able to pull it off. Even the great David Rudisha has never done it.
“Do you know how hard it is?” Kszczot said. “Not many people did it before, having two medals in 800 world champs. People hate 800 athletes because it’s such a lottery, such a gamble, to run to win, to be a medalist, to fight for finals, semifinals. Everything, every little step [has] to be well done, well prepared to be in such a position and to be such a lucky guy like me.”
Men who have medalled in the 800 in back-to-back World Champs
Billy Konchellah, Kenya (1987, 1991 gold, 1993 bronze)
Wilson Kipketer, Denmark (1995, 1997, 1999 gold)
Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Russia (2003, 2005 silver, 2007 bronze)
Alfred Kirwa Yego, Kenya (2007 gold, 2009 silver)
Adam Kszczot, Poland (2015, 2017 silver)
Quick Thought: Kyle Langford surprised a lot of people, but he’s not satisfied with 4th
The largest cheer of the night at London Stadium was for Langford in the homestretch as he tried to run down the entire field for a medal. Ultimately, he came up just .04 short, still an inconceivable outcome before Worlds as the 21-year-old was only third at the British Trials and owned a PR (1:45.78) that would rank him 73rd on the 2017 world list. Heck, even after PRing in the final to run 1:45.25, he’s still only 43rd on the world list. But he ran well when it counted and almost stole one of the unlikeliest medals in 800 history.
Langford believed in himself, however, and he said that he knew coming in he could make the final and if he made the final, he had a shot to medal. And even though he finished fourth in the world tonight, he wasn’t satisfied.
“I should have got first, I won’t make that mistake next time,” Langford said.
Quick Thought: Back to the drawing board for Nijel Amos.
Five years ago at the 2012 Olympics in London, in the most famous 800-meter race in history, most pundits believed that 18-year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana marked himself as a future star as just 3.5 weeks after winning world junior gold he won an Olympic silver medal in 1:41.73 behind David Rudisha’s world record of 1:40.91. However, tonight, on the very same track, Amos potential to be a global champion once again went unfulfilled.
The five years since the 2012 Olympics have been far from smooth sailing for Amos. Injured in 2013, he didn’t compete at Worlds. In 2014 and 2015, he ran 1:42 but in he went out of the semis at Worlds in 2015. In 2016, he only ran 1:44 and went out in the first round of the Olympics. Amos (or maybe someone in his camp) decided a big change was needed and he moved to Eugene, Oregon, to train under Mark Rowland and Nike’s Oregon Track Club.
Until tonight, the change had seemed to be working as he’d won every race he’d run this year where he hadn’t fallen including Paris, London, and Rabat. However, tonight not only did he fail to win, but he also managed to fail to medal yet again.
And to be honest, he doesn’t have a good excuse. The field wasn’t that great and tactically he wasn’t horrible.
Often, when Amos races he reminds us of a high schooler as his arms are often flailing and he’s often making a bunch of mini moves, but tonight he got exactly what he had to have been hoping for – Brandon McBride taking it out. And while Amos got shoved by Bett at 200 and then wasted a little bit of energy around 300 meters when he made a move around Brazil’s Thiago Andre, he was in a good spot up front tactically for much of the race. He was perfectly positioned right on McBride’s shoulder between 400 and 500 but just not nearly good enough over the final 300.
Moving forward, if we were coaching Amos, we’d honestly consider entering him in some college races where he just runs in the middle of a pack for 600 so he can learn to relax and realize the race doesn’t really get going until about 550.
QT: Kipyegon Bett Wins Bronze in First Year in Pro Ranks
Kipyegon Bett is only 19 years old and was the World Junior champion last year. Now he’s the senior bronze medallist. He was pleased to get the medal and to represent Kenya so well. “I was thinking about David Rudisha before the race and I was hoping for any medal because of him. So I am perfectly happy for this bronze as I wanted it so badly. In my first year as a senior, I could not hope for better,” he said.