World Indoors Day 2: Mariano Garcia Goes From Last To 1st To Win 800 as Bryce Hoppel Wins Bronze, Gudaf Tsegay Goes Wire-To-Wire To Win 1500

By Robert Johnson and Jonathan Gault
March 19, 2022

BELGRADE, Serbia – The Stark Arena was rocking tonight as 9 different gold medals were awarded as day 2 at the 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships came to a close. Below we recap the two mid-d events for you – the men’s 800 and women’s 1500. Our recap of the men’s 60, women’s 60h, men’s and women’s 400s, men’s shot put, men’s heptathlon and women’s pole vault will appear in a separate article.

*Full Results

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Men’s 800: The world leader Mariano Garcia goes from last to first to win gold as Bryce Hoppel takes the bronze

Few events are as tactically demanding as the indoor 800 meters. It’s quite not as cutthroat as a pure sprint event, where one mistake is death. But it requires each athlete to make a series of split-second decisions while racing at high speed, any one of which could be the difference between winning and losing. That was doubly so in tonight’s men’s 800 final, a wide-open race where each of the eight finalists were dreaming of gold.

Only one man could claim the win, however, and tonight that was Spain’s Mariano Garcia, who ran a brilliant tactical race to go from last at 200 meters to first across the line in 1:46.20 and cap a dream season. Seventeen-year-old Kenyan Noah Kibet took silver in his first senior global championship in 1:46.20, while Bryce Hoppel extended the US’s medal streak in this event to three straight championships by earning bronze in 1:46.51.

“I just tried to keep with the group and in the last lap I tried to attack the front and told myself to run fast until the end – till I die,” Garcia said.

Canada’s Marco Arop took tonight’s race out super quick, hitting 200 meters in 23.97 and neither American had great position early as Hoppel was 5th and Harris 7th after one lap. Harris was in a particularly tough spot: for the first time since the inaugural World Indoors in 1987, World Athletics ran an 8-man 800m final (it was six in previous years), meaning four athletes had to share lanes. For some reason, Harris was one of them despite running the fastest time in qualifying, as he had to line up on the outside of lane 4 with Spain’s Alvaro de Arriba, and when de Arriba beat him off the line, Harris let him go and slid toward the back of the race.

Garcia, who started on Harris’ outside in lane 5, was even further back, hitting 200 in last place (25.29). But on the second lap, he did something about it, surging past Harris and into 5th on the back straight and then moving up on the outside again into third by the halfway mark (still Arop in 50.34).

Arop still held the lead at the bell but by 700 he was starting to tie up and Garcia and Kibet were coming for him hard. Those two blew past him entering the final turn and would battle to the line, Garcia just managing to hold off the teen in the end. Behind them, it was a mad dash for the bronze and Hoppel was able to get it as Arop faded to last in 1:47.58.

Neither Hoppel nor Harris were able to stake out a good position throughout the race, and as a result neither was ever in a great spot to battle for the gold on the final lap despite their pre-race ambitions. Hoppel did have something in reserve for the final straight, but by the time he finally had room to run, Garcia and Kibet were too far ahead and he had to settle for bronze. 

Quick Take: This is why the indoor 800 is so compelling

LetsRun staffer Jonathan Gault has long believed that any casual sports fan should be a fan of the 800 meters. Tonight’s race is a perfect example of why. Garcia went out in last and won the race; Arop led for almost 700 meters and wound up last. In between, there was jostling, people were making moves, and everyone was kicking like crazy on the last lap. That makes it one of the most difficult races to run as an athlete but also one of the most exciting for fans.

Quick Take: The best man won tonight

Anytime there is an indoor 800 with eight men in it, there is going to be talk about tactics and positioning and how things might have been different if it had been run differently. But in the end, the world leader won the race. And he did it by starting off in last place (25.29) and making his way through the field.

Garcia’s improvement over the past year has been vast. In 2019, he went out in the first round at World Outdoors in Doha, and last year he was only 3rd at the Spanish indoor champs and failed to make the Euro Indoor final in Torun (he didn’t race outdoors after June 12). He has reached an entirely new level in 2022, running a Spanish record of 1:45.12 in Staten Island and winning again on the World Indoor Tour in Lievin. He was only second at his last two races coming into Worlds but married impressive fitness with savvy tactics to take the gold tonight.

1  Mariano GARCÍA ESP 25 Sep 97 5 1:46.20
2 Noah KIBET KEN 12 Apr 04 1 1:46.35
3 Bryce HOPPEL USA 5 Sep 97 6 1:46.51
4 Álvaro DE ARRIBA ESP 2 Jun 94 4 1:46.58
5 Andreas KRAMER SWE 13 Apr 97 3 1:46.76
6 Eliott CRESTAN BEL 22 Feb 99 2 1:46.78
7 Isaiah HARRIS USA 18 Oct 96 4 1:47.00
8 Marco AROP CAN 20 Sep 98 2 1:47.58

100 m Marco AROP 12.10 200 m Marco AROP 23.97
300 m Marco AROP 36.89 400 m Marco AROP 50.34
500 m Mariano GARCÍA 1:04.17 600 m Marco AROP 1:17.83
700 m Mariano GARCÍA 1:31.81

Quick Take: Bryce Hoppel viewed his bronze tonight as a good step in his career but was disappointed not to finish higher

Hoppel has built a reputation as a strong tactical racer indoors, as until this point he had won the three biggest indoor championships he had competed in – NCAAs in 2019, USAs in 2020 and 2022. But tonight he did not get into a great position off the line and found it hard to improve his position against the toughest indoor field he had ever faced. 

“Honestly, a little disappointed,” Hoppel said of his race. “For the first time, I just didn’t race it as a smart racer. And so I kind of just got myself stuck in a tough spot tactically and felt myself just working up and working around the whole time…You try to make that move, get around the corner, and someone responds to it and you can’t do it then.”

It’s a tricky balancing act, especially in a balanced field like this when no one can afford to give up extra time or distance. Sometimes in an 800, you have to go faster than you feel comfortable with in order to get into position to win. But by doing so, you’re sapping your energy reserves for the final kick. Hoppel got the balance slightly wrong tonight, but with a US title and a World Championship medal, his 2022 indoor season will still go down as a success.

Quick Take: Isaiah Harris was in a tough position, but he wasn’t making excuses afterwards

Similar to Hoppel, Harris could never get in the position he wanted and though he finally had a little room to run at the very end of the race, didn’t have anything left and wound up fading to 7th. This was Harris’ first global championship final, and given the strength of US 800 running at the moment, getting back to one is going to be difficult. Hence this tweet:

Harris admitted he had been put in a tough spot with his lane draw but did not make any excuses.

“You can’t complain about the things you can’t control,” Harris said. “At the end of the day, I should have got out a little harder and positioned myself better and I’ll keep that as a lesson learned and keep moving forward.”

Quick Take: If World Athletics is going to run 8 in a final, the heat winners should not be sharing a lane

As noted above, World Athletics did Harris no favors in this one. His reward for running the fastest time of the prelims was to share lane four and once he got off the line behind Alvaro de Arriba, he had no option but to hang back for the first turn.

We reached out to World Athletics to ask why they chose to run an eight-person final instead of the traditional six and were told it was a combination of the number of entries (24) and the qualifying formula for the final. We don’t have a huge problem with an eight-person final, but if you’re going to do it that way, the heat winners have to get their own lanes in the final.

Quick Take: Marco Arop thought he got a little excited but overall is pleased with his indoor campaign

Marco Arop led for most of the race and even as late as 700 was in second but he ended up fading to last over the final 100. Despite having to run extra ground on the first turn as he was sharing a lane, he still split 23.97 at 200 and 50.64 at 400. Arop said he was planning on giong to the front – just not that fast – but he got a little excited.

Still, he had a big picture view of things when it was all over. Back in October, he was struggling with a stress fracture in his toe and thought he wouldn’t run indoors at all. So to be here and in the final bodes well for his outdoor campaign.

In the first round, Noah Kibet was the revelation of the championships and he backed that up in the final

Anyone who watched the first round of the 800 had to be impressed by 17-year-old Kenyan Noah Kibet. Only 5th in his last race prior to Worlds, he blew by Bryce Hoppel to win the heat. Afterwards, we tried to not overhype how good he looked (so we called him a “A new Kenyan star?” but added a question mark at the end) and realized that his final 200 was the slowest of anyone in the field. Tonight, he showed the hype was warranted and snagged the silver.

He was pleased with the result and said he looks forward to coming back with more experience.

Women’s 1500: The world record holder goes wire-to-wire

Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay came into Saturday’s 1500 final with the goal not just of winning her first global title, but of dominating the race, hoping to break the World Indoor championship record and run 3:57. She accomplished all of it, gapping the field early thanks to splits of 61.83 at 400 and 2:06.17 at 800 and pulling away to win by an enormous 5.10 seconds in 3:57.19 – over two seconds faster than Gelete Burka’s championship record from 2008.

As convincing as Tsegay’s win was, it was not unexpected. She entered tonight’s race as the world record holder indoors (3:53.09) and 2022 world leader by 7+ seconds, and none of the three Olympic medalists from last summer – Faith Kipyegon, Laura Muir, and Sifan Hassan – were in the field.

Tsegay was not the only reason for Ethiopians to celebrate tonight however, as its women’s 1500 runners made history by becoming the first nation to sweep the podium in any event – men’s or women’s – at a World Indoor champs. Axumawit Embaye earned another silver medal in this race eight years after her first by running 4:02.29, while 21-year-old Hirut Meshesha took bronze in 4:03.39 in her first senior global champs. American Josette Norris put herself in a mix for a medal in her first global final but could not close the gap to the Ethiopians and settled for 5th in 4:04.71.

The race itself was fairly predictable as Tsegay is known for going out extremely fast and trying to win wire-to-wire and that’s exactly what she did. The decision facing the rest of the field was whether to go with it, and the answer was “kind of” as Embaye and Meshesha did not follow Tsegay’s crazy fast 2:06.17 opening 800 but didn’t hang too far behind either, hitting 800 in 2:08.73. Norris was a little further behind in 2:09.81 – a pace she should have been able to handle given her 4:20.81 mile at Millrose in January – but she could not summon the kick she needed and wound up fading to fifth. The only real drama on the last lap was which of Embaye or Meshesha, who passed each other a couple of times during the race, would take the silver, and Embaye settled that before the final straight.

1 Gudaf TSEGAY ETH 23 Jun 97 CR 6 3:57.19
2 Axumawit EMBAYE ETH 18 Oct 94 1 4:02.29
3 Hirut MESHESHA ETH 20 Jan 01 7 4:03.39
4 Winnie NANYONDO UGA 23 Aug 93 3 4:04.60
5 Josette NORRIS USA 15 Dec 95 2 4:04.71
6 Linden HALL AUS 20 Jun 91 SB 4 4:06.34
7 Heather MACLEAN USA 31 Aug 95 12 4:06.38
8 Lucia STAFFORD CAN 17 Aug 98 SB 11 4:06.41
9 Claudia Mihaela BOBOCEA ROU 11 Jun 92 10 4:09.64
10 Marta PÉREZ ESP 19 Apr 93 8 4:10.23
11 Sara KUIVISTO FIN 17 Aug 91 5 4:12.79
12 Alma Delia CORTES MEX 26 Dec 97 9 4:13.71
100 m Gudaf TSEGAY 15.35 200 m Gudaf TSEGAY 30.58
300 m Gudaf TSEGAY 46.00 400 m Gudaf TSEGAY 1:01.83
500 m Gudaf TSEGAY 1:17.87 600 m Gudaf TSEGAY 1:33.99
700 m Gudaf TSEGAY 1:50.09 800 m Gudaf TSEGAY 2:06.17
900 m Gudaf TSEGAY 2:22.12 1000 m Gudaf TSEGAY 2:38.21
1100 m Gudaf TSEGAY 2:54.30 1200 m Gudaf TSEGAY 3:10.28
1300 m Gudaf TSEGAY 3:26.21 1400 m Gudaf TSEGAY

What a dominant performance from Tsegay

Tsegay was terrific this year and totally deserves her gold medal, but it’s hard to overlook that the three best milers on the planet last year weren’t in this race. Tsegay knows that too and said that she is already looking forward to running for a gold medal in Eugene this summer (event TBD). 

Tsegay also revealed that she was not 100% in Tokyo last year. After her 3:53 indoors and 14:13 outdoors at the start of 2021, Tsegay was looking forward to challenging for an Olympic title, but she developed an Achilles injury just before Tokyo and had to settle for bronze in the 5000. Now she says she is fully healthy and hoping to improve on that finish at World Outdoors – and possibly take a crack at the 5000m world record at some point this year as well.

Josette Norris: “I know it’s in there, and I wish it could have been in there today”

If you told us before the race that tonight’s final would turn into a time-trial-type affair and that it would take 4:03 to get on the podium, we would have felt very good about Norris’s chances at a medal. She came through faster than that (4:03.16) en route to a 4:20 mile at Millrose in January and said after yesterday’s prelims that based on her workouts, she believes she is fitter than when she ran 3:59 last summer. So the fact that Norris could not manage faster than 4:04 tonight was definitely a disappointment. Norris did go out a little quickly (62.78 first 400) but nothing unreasonable. In fact, her tactics were pretty much spot on – she put herself in a good position to medal. Her body did not respond the way she wanted it to tonight.

“I wish I was a little more patient to begin with, but I thought I wanted to be right on them,” Norris said. “I felt like I was just a little off the whole time and it was uncomfortable from the start. But for my first world final, to finish 5th, that’s really positive momentum going to the outdoor season.”

Heather MacLean was satisfied with 7th but hopes to be in medal contention in the years to come

MacLean said she had some setbacks in the fall (she had an organ removed) and has been playing catch-up on her teammates in training. This morning at breakfast with 3000 silver medallist Elle Purrier St. Pierre (PSP), they remarked how everything happens for a reason and MaClean knocking PSP off the 1500 team may have enabled her to win the silver last night.

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