June 6, 2019
The 800 meters represents the best of what track & field has to offer, a dramatic blend of speed and strategy playing out in under two minutes. And 800-meter races don’t come much better than the one we saw in Rome tonight.
When all was said and done, we saw two lead changes over the final 200 meters, a photo finish, and the first Diamond League victory for 22-year-old American Donavan Brazier, who clocked a world-leading 1:43.63 to beat out Botswana’s Nijel Amos by .02.
Amos was the first racer behind the rabbit at 200 meters (24.5), followed by Kenyan Wyclife Kinyamal and Brazier, and it remained that way at the bell, with the field strung out single-file behind rabbit Harun Abda, who hit 400 in a quick 49.96.
Brazier moved outside in an attempt to pass Kinyamal on the back straight, but Kinyamal decided to make a move at that point as well. Rather than accelerate up to top gear with 250 meters to go, Brazier backed off, remaining tucked in in third as Kinyamal passed Amos just before the 200m mark.
Kinyamal led coming into the homestretch and as Amos tried to move wide entering the homestretch to respond he stumbled, likely making contact with Kinyamal in front of him but possibly with Brazier behind him.
Nonethless, Amos soon was full of run and he went by Kinyamal and looked as if he would go on to win it. Brazier however still had something left in the tank. The only problem was he looked like he had no where to run as he had stayed on the rail and Kinyamal was right in front of him and Amos was on the outside of Kinyamal. Brazier decided his only chance was to go three wide and he finally found room to run midway down the homestretch, but it appeared to be too little too late. Amos still had a stride on Amos with 20 meters to go, but Brazier stayed strong, and gained on Amos, powering through the line with a slight lean as Amos, running out of gas, tried a more dramatic lean.
It wasn’t immediately clear who came out on top, but the results soon flashed up: Brazier had done it, running his fastest time since his collegiate record of 1:43.55, set three years ago this week.
|Rank||Lane||Nat||Name||Time||Qual. rank||Qual. points||SB||PB|
400m – 49.5 sec
Quick Take: What a win for Brazier, who showed the composure and patience he has lacked in years past
This win was huge for Brazier for two reasons.
1) Winning a Diamond League shows that Brazier is one of, if not the best in the world right now
2018 world leader Emmanuel Korir of Kenya wasn’t in this race, but many of the big names of the 800 were, including the Doha DL winner in Amos, the World Indoor champ in Adam Kszczot, and Brazier’s top US rival in Clayton Murphy. There’s still a long way to go until worlds — almost four months — but to beat all those guys is a great sign for Brazier.
2) Tactically, Brazier ran brilliantly
Even Brazier will admit that he hasn’t always kept his cool in races in the past. Back when we spoke to him in Boston in January following a win at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, Brazier said that remaining patient and not panicking is something that he is trying to work on under new coach Pete Julian.
“We talked about that, being in the mix and in the crowd where I can come out that last 150 meters when I’m boxed in,” Brazier said.
That’s exactly what Brazier did today. We often say that you only get one move in the 800, and Brazier looked as if he was going to use his on the back straight when he moved out to lane 2. But he saw that Kinyamal was going to be tough to catch before the final turn and instead decided to stay where he was and wait until the home straight to move.
Coming off the turn, Brazier was still somewhat boxed in, but after Amos began to pull away, Brazier tracked his move and was able to run him down at the line. It’s unlikely Brazier would have had enough left in the tank to do that had he made that hard move to go by Kinyamal on the back straight.
Quick Take: Brazier retains NOP bragging rights over Clayton Murphy
Murphy ran a season’s best of 1:44.59 to finish fifth, but was never realistically in contention in this one. That’s a solid result, but clearly Brazier’s was the performance of the day today. Since Brazier joined NOP at the start of the year, he is now 2-0 vs. Murphy, following up his win at NBIGP in January.
QT: Nice Run for Brandon McBride in 3rd
Another NCAA champ ran well and that was Canadian national record holder Brandon McBride in third. This was only McBride’s third race of the year and first in Europe. He may have run a bit tentative but he was gaining some ground on the leaders at the end and afterwards said, “I am happy with this race. My training has been going on very well. But I made a few mistakes: I did not have the confidence to stick with the leaders. This is the second race of the season and the SB is not bad.”
The final 100m in pictures: