Great Britain’s Elliot Giles Runs 1:43.63 for 800 (#2 All-Time) at Copernicus Cup in Torun

By Jonathan Gault
February 17, 2021

The wild winter that is the 2021 indoor track season continued on Wednesday at the Copernicus Cup World Indoor Tour Gold meet in Torun, Poland. Scarcely a week after a meet in Lievin, France, that saw the world record tumble in the women’s 1500 meters (and near-WRs in three other events), Great Britain’s Elliot Giles ran 1:43.63 to win the men’s 800 in Torun and log the #2 time in the event’s history. Only Wilson Kipketer, who set the world record of 1:42.67 to win the 1997 World Indoor title in Paris, has gone faster indoors. Giles’ time today was a big shock as coming in his outright pb was just 1:44.56 and his indoor pb was just 1:45.46. Giles, the 4th placer at World Indoors in 2018 and two-time World Championships semifinalist outdoors, is just the third man to break 1:44 undercover.

Giles is now behind only Wilson Kipketer on the all-time indoor list

With 11 men in the crowded field, if Giles was going to run fast, it was important for him to get the front early in Torun, and he did just that, settling in behind the rabbit who opened with a quick 24.00 split for the first 200, at which point the field was strung out single-file. When the pacer hit 400 in 50.15 with Giles just behind him, it appeared something very quick was on the cards — assuming Giles did not completely collapse over the final two laps.

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At the bell (1:17.29), it still wasn’t clear that Giles, was even going to win the race. Fellow Brit Jamie Webb had moved onto Giles’ shoulder on the home straight of the penultimate lap in an attempt to pass, and though he couldn’t quite get around Giles, he and Sweden’s Andreas Kramer were still contention. It was not until the end of the back straight on the final lap that Giles began to earn some separation, pulling away to win in 1:43.63. Webb (1:44.54, #9 all-time indoors) and Kramer (1:45.09, Swedish record) held on for deserved second- and third-place finishes, both taking over a second off their indoor pbs.

Watch the final 400m of the race below:

In other action in Torun, 19-year-old Lemlem Hailu stayed hot, clocking a world-leading 8:31.24 to edge steeple world champ Beatrice Chepkoech (8:31.72) in the 3,000 meters (world record holder Genzebe Dibaba also made her 2021 debut, but limped off the track and dropped out with an apparent injury). Fellow Ethiopian Habitam Alemu earned a dominant win in the 800 (1:58.19), while 12:43/26:49 man Selemon Barega dropped down to the 1500 and won comfortably in 3:32.97 to defeat a field that included 2019 World medalist Marcin Lewandowski. Barega’s time tied his overall personal best set outdoors in Doha last year. In the sprints, American Grant Holloway won again, taking the 60-meter hurdles in 7.38, though his time may have been slowed by the three false starts preceding the race.

Men’s 800m results *Full meet results

Pos Lane Bib Athlete Date Of Birth Club/Country Mark Rank
1 11 23 GILES Elliot 94-05-26 GREAT BRITAIN (GBR) 1:43.63 PB MR WL 1
2 3 26 WEBB Jamie 94-06-01 GREAT BRITAIN (GBR) 1:44.54 PB 2
3 2 100 KRAMER Andreas 97-04-13 SWEDEN (SWE) 1:45.09 PB 3
4 5 89 KSZCZOT Adam 89-09-02 POLAND (POL) 1:45.22 SB 4
5 9 51 BORKOWSKI Mateusz 97-04-02 POLAND (POL) 1:46.20 PB 5
6 1 3 TUKA Amel 91-01-09 BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (BIH) 1:46.35 SB 6
7 4 28 REUTHER Marc 96-06-23 GERMANY (GER) 1:46.43 7
8 10 40 KIPRUTO Collins 94-04-12 KENYA (KEN) 1:46.61 SB 8
9 8 43 VAN_DIEPEN Tony 96-04-17 NETHERLANDS (NED) 1:46.97 PB 9
6 60 SIERADZKI Patryk 98-10-06 POLAND (POL) DNF

Quick Take: What a run for Elliot Giles, who has been on fire in 2021

Giles led a slew of fast times in Torun

That Giles got the win today was not a huge surprise — he had looked good in earning dominant wins in Karlsruhe (1:45.50 on January 29) and Lievin (1:45.49 on February 9), and just three days ago ran a 3:36.90 pb for 1500 meters in Metz. But few could have predicted that Giles would take almost a second off his outdoor pb (1:44.56) and become just the third man to break 1:44 indoors.

So what are we to make of this performance? A 26-year-old who has never made a World Championship or Olympic final outdoors PRs by almost a second and is now the second-fastest runner ever indoors?

The complicating factor, is, of course, the new superspikes taking the track world by storm in 2021. Clearly, Giles is in terrific form. He had already shown signs of a breakout in 2020, twice running pbs in September (1:44.68 and 1:44.56). But how much of that improvement is due to Giles’ hard work, and how much is due to superior equipment? We’ll never truly know, and that is one of the frustrating things about being a fan (and an athlete) in the year 2021.

Quick Take: Has Great Britain ever had a deeper 800m corps?

In 2019, Great Britain conjured memories of the glory days of the 1980s by placing three men in the World Championship 1500m final in Doha. They didn’t get anyone in the 800 final, but now the Brits are starting to show similar quality in the half-lap event as well. In addition to Giles and Webb, there is reigning British champ Daniel Rowden (1:44.09), Jake Wightman (1:44.18), 2017 Worlds 4th placer Kyle Langford (1:44.83), and 18-year-old phenom Max Burgin (1:44.75). Wightman will likely opt for the 1500 at the Olympics, but that is still quite a crop of talent.

The big difference, of course, between the current crop and the ’80s glory days is that there is no true superstar talent like Seb CoeSteve Ovett, or Steve Cram; just a number of very, very good guys. They’ll need someone like Giles, Rowden, or Wightman to keep developing if GB is to break its long middle-distance medal drought. Great Britain hasn’t won a men’s 800 medal at a Worlds/Olympics since 1987 and hasn’t won one in the 1500 since 1988 (in both cases, the medal was a silver by Peter Elliott).

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MB: Elliot Giles 1:43.63, 2nd all time!