2019 Women’s 800 Semis: Ajee’ Wilson, Raevyn Rogers and Ce’Aira Brown All Advance To Potentially Historic Final

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by LetsRun.com
September 28, 2019

DOHA, Qatar — An American woman has never won an 800-meter gold medal in the 37-year history of the IAAF World Athletics Championships. That’s likely to change in two days’ time when the final of the women’s 800 is run as American training partners Raevyn Rogers and Ajee’ Wilson looked supreme in winning the first two of the three semifinals this evening in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:59.57 and 2:00.31 respectively. The US will have three entrants in the final as Ce’Aira Brown, who didn’t even make the final of the US championships, is in the final as well after running 2:00.12 to get in on time as the first of two time qualifiers out of heat #3.

5 women started today’s semifinals with a seasonal best time of sub-1:59 and all five of them are into the final as the biggest casualty on the day was 6 seed Rose May Almanza of Cuba who was 4th in heat #2 in 2:01.18 when the final time qualifier was 2:00.33.

Here are how the top 13 seeds fared today. *Heat by heat results

Quick Take: The Ugandans are the Americans’ biggest threats in the final

Winnie Nanyondo and Raevyn Rogers

While Wilson and Rogers both were in total control of their heats, the two Ugandans to advance to the final, Winnie Nanyondo and Halimah Nakkayi, looked just as good in the semis tonight. Nanyondo was almost inseparable from Rogers tonight, sticking on her until the very end when Rogers pulled away to win heat 1.

Nakkayi, meanwhile, was full of run in heat 3, though she was a bit lucky not to get disqualified. After finding herself boxed in on the back-straight, Nakkayi repeatedly initiated contact as she tried to move up on the inside. Then, on the home straight, she blatantly shoved Natoya Goule to create room for herself to move up and win the heat.

What Nakkayi did was definitely a foul, but after the officials let Jakob Ingebrigtsen skate yesterday after taking at least three steps inside the rail, we are glad she was not DQ’d. Her pushing did not have any “material impact” on this heat as  Goule and the top 4 all got into the final anyway. We’ve long believed the officials should “pick up the flag” like they do on uncatchable passes in the NFL if a foul doesn’t impact the outcome, particularly in preliminary rounds. The problem is Nakkayi’s actions today and Ingebrigtsen’s yesterday set a bad precedent in the sense that other runners may now think they can get away with similarly stupid tactical decisions.

Regardless, Nakaayi looked like a much better runner than one who hasn’t run faster than 1:59.57 this year (Her pb is 1:58.39 from last year ) or ever made it out of the semis at a global championship. As for Nanyondo, her form wasn’t a surprise as she was third in the Diamond League final – just .01 behind Rogers.

Goule, for her part, wanted Nakkayi DQ’d and said she would look into protesting — even though she made the final anyway.

“She keep pushing me when I passed her, pushing me, pushing me, pushing me,” Goule said. “Then, as everyone can see on the replay, she literally pushed me so hard. I don’t know how I stayed in the top four.”

Quick Take: Ce’Aira Brown didn’t take the conventional path to the World Championship final, but now she’s here and she wants the gold

Back on July 26, Brown made a mistake that could have cost her the season: she failed to lean at the line of her semifinal at the US championships and missed a spot in the final by .03 of a second. It looked as if an injury-plagued season — she missed five weeks of running in the buildup to USAs due to a foot injury — was over.

But as she was leaving Des Moines, she heard about a lifeline from her agent. Because only three people in the USA final had the World Championship standard, Brown — who had run the standard at Millrose in February — still had a way to make it to Worlds. If an American won the Diamond League final, Brown, as the only other woman in the USA semis with the standard, would get to go to Worlds. 

Wilson did indeed win the DL final, putting Brown on the team — after the race, she told Wilson “dinner on me, thank you for winning” — and, after finishing third in heat 3, she’s now heading to the World Championship final. 

“It’s really wild,” Brown said.

Brown was then asked what she’d consider a successful result in the final. Her answer, delivered with a laugh, consisted of just one word.

“Win.”

Quick Take: Even accounting for the absence of Caster Semenya and the other XY DSD women, the women’s 800 is a little bit down this year.

With no XY DSD women like the three who swept the Olympic medals in 2016 competing in Doha this year, it’s not a surprise that the times being run at Worlds this year are slower than recent years. But what is surprising is how much slower the times are. Tonight, only three women broke 2:00 and 2:00.33 got in to the final on time. 

That pales in comparison to the last two Worlds. In 2017, 10 women broke 2:00 in the semis and it took 1:59.47 to get in on time. In 2015, 17 women broke 2:00 and it took 1:58.35 to get in to the final on time. Yes, Semenya and the DSD women also served as unofficial rabbits for the fields so their absence explains for some of the decline in times but not all of it as show in the table below.

Yr # of Sub-2 Performers # of Sub-1:59 Performers
2019 26 12
2018 28 14
2017 32 17
2016 35 18
2015 35 17

Quick Take: Ajee’ Wilson said the potential for a 1-2-3 American sweep gives her “jitters”

For the first time since 2013, the US has three women in the World Championship final, and after going 2-3-5 in that race, the 2019 crew could do even better. Wilson is the heavy favorite for gold, Rogers looks to have a great shot at a medal as well, and anything Brown does from here on out is a bonus.

1-2-3 probably isn’t happening — though if Brown had been healthy all year, it would have been a distinct possibility — but it’s still a possibility. No other country can say that.

Wilson is definitely excited about the possibility. When she was asked about the possibility in the mixed zone, she broke out in a big smile and shimmied from side to side.

“Jitters hearing that,” Wilson said. “I hope so. I definitely do [believe it’s possible].”

Quick Take: Raevyn Rogers is peaking at the right time

Rogers ran her best race of the season to take second in the Diamond League final on September 6, and she looks to be peaking at exactly the right time after some injuries earlier this year.

“I’m healthy, I don’t have my Achilles problems, and I’m just really happy to be in this final and healthy and in a good mindset,” Rogers said.

The one problem: she has to face Wilson in the final, a woman she has yet to defeat in an 800 (Rogers is 0-22 against Wilson in her career). Rogers admits that she doesn’t know the best way to beat Wilson, her training partner under Derek Thompson, but as long as she runs her best in the final, she’ll be happy with the outcome.

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