2023 Worlds M800m Preview: Crowning of a New Champion?

In recent years, the men’s 800 has been a little bit underwhelming. No one not currently serving a doping ban (Nijel Amos, we are talking about you) has broken 1:43 since 2019. That being said, when it’s come to the major championships, one man has stood out: Emmanuel Korir of Kenya, who has won the World/Olympic final as well as the Diamond League final in each of the last two years.

The former UTEP standout however enters Worlds in 2023 as a major question mark. If you think his pre-Worlds results last year were underwhelming — he entered Worlds last year only with a 1:45.85 sb and hadn’t placed higher than 5th in a Diamond League — this year’s results are much more so. He’s been 8th, 10th, and 8th in his three Diamond Leagues and hasn’t run faster than 1:47.71 as he’s nursed a calf injury. However, Korir can’t totally be discounted and he’s saying all of the right things to the Kenyan press, “I’m very hungry. I am not going to let it (the title) go to someone else.”

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With Korir a MAJOR question mark, the 800 is wide open. There have been four different winners for the five Diamond League 800m races this season, all of which have been run differently, with the winning times ranging from 1:46.06 to 1:43.22. The only repeat winner is 19-year-old Kenyan trials champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi, who needs to be considered the favorite. 4th last year at Worlds at age 17 (he turned 19 on August 1), he’s had a great 2023 as he won the Rabat and Paris Diamond Leagues (and Paris produced 5 of the 6 fastest times this year) as well as the Kenyan trials. The only concern is he was just 8th in Monaco (1:44.35) in his last race on July 21.

Kenya has been dominant in the men’s 800m for the last 10 years, placing at least one man on the podium in every major championship 800m final dating back to 2013. Athletics Kenya is sending four men this year because Korir has the automatic bye. The other two are Ferguson Rotich (29th fastest time this year), and Alex Ng’eno (14th fastest time this year).

The 2023 world leader Wyclife Kinyamal of Kenya, who was 8th at Worlds last year, will not be in Budapest as he was only 4th at the Kenyan trials. He rebounded from that to win Monaco in 1:43.22.

Prelims: Tuesday, August 22, 1:20 p.m. ET; Semis: Thursday, August 24, 2:50 p.m. ET; Final: Saturday, August 26, 2:30 p.m. ET

2022 WCH Results
1. Emmanuel Korir Kenya (KEN) 1:43.71 SB
2. Djamel Sedjati Algeria (ALG) 1:44.14
3. Marco Arop Canada (CAN) 1:44.28
4. Emmanuel Wanyonyi Kenya (KEN) 1:44.54
5. Slimane Moula Algeria (ALG) 1:44.85
6. Gabriel Tual France (FRA) 1:45.49
7. Peter Bol Australia (AUS) 1:45.51
8. Wycliffe Kinyamal Kenya (KEN) 1:47.07

2023’s Fastest Performers (among men entered)
1. 1:43.27 Emmanuel Wanyonyi KEN
2. 1:43.30 Marco Arop CAN
3.  1:43.38 Slimane Moula ALG
4. 1:43.40 Djamel Sedjati ALG
5. 1:43.48 Benjamin Robert FRA
6. 1:43.85 Max Burgin GBR
7. 1:43.90 Azeddine Habz FRA
8. 1:43.95 Daniel Rowden GBR
8. 1:43.95 Bryce Hoppel USA
10. 1:43.99 Joseph Deng AUS

Algerian Duo

Slimane Moula and Djamel Sedjati of Algeria burst onto the world 800m scene last year, placing 5th and 2nd, respectively, in the World Championship final. This year, both men have a Diamond League 800m win to their name and are the 4th and 5th fastest 800m men in the world.

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Moula has been having a very stellar season over 800m, placing in the top 3 in all three of his Diamond League 800m races. This type of consistency is a good predictor of doing well in the final, where the races will likely contain much of the same men he has already raced across each of those three Diamond Leagues. He is also the 2023 Arab Games 800m champion.

Sedjati has raced well this year in the Diamond League races, too, but less so compared to Moula. Sedjati has placed 3rd once, 4th twice, and won the Stockholm Diamond League 800m.

Sedjati and Moula in Doha (Courtesy of Moula’s Instagram)

The two will definitely be contenders to win and medal if they are to reach the final in Budapest. Both Algerians have been known to close the second lap and especially the final 200m very hard. Sedjati left it a little too late to take the win last year, and it will be interesting to see if he will make his move earlier this time around to improve on his silver medal.

The (North) Americans

Canadian Marco Arop has asserted himself as a major player in the 800m for the past few years. He has been known for his front-running style, only to be passed with 200m or less to go in the race. Although the same technique was employed last year in Eugene, Arop did manage to hold on for his first World Championship medal. Arop trains in the States under coach Chris Woods at Mississippi State. Arop trains with fellow World Championship qualifier and Jamaican record holder Navasky Anderson. Talking about national records, Arop has run 1:43.30 this season, only 0.1 seconds off of Brandon McBride‘s Canadian national record of 1:43.20. If the pace is hot in Budapest and Arop has a good race, that record could fall.

Arop’s best result this season was placing 2nd in the Paris Diamond League 800m, where the top 7 guys all finished within one second of each other. Arop has run well this year and is a medal contender.

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Crossing the southern border down to the U.S., the men desperately need to bounce back from what was a horrendous display in 2022 on home turf. The U.S. sent four men to Worlds in the 800m and 0 of the 4 men advanced past the heats. However, only of the those men, Bryce Hoppel, is returning this year. The other two U.S. men to make this year’s team are Clayton Murphy and Isaiah Harris.

Murphy, 2016 800m Olympic bronze medalist, definitely knows how to get it done in the rounds and semifinals to make the final, as he has done so at every major championship he has made since 2016. The downside is that his season has been up and down. His high point came running 1:44.75 at the LA Grand Prix in May, but then he struggled racing in Europe before placing 3rd in the final at USAs. His past two 800m races have been 1:45s and in good competition but struggling with place. Murphy will definitely be looking to keep his “making the final” streak alive this year in Budapest.

Hoppel has been extremely consistent and is the most likely medal contender out of the three. He placed 4th in Doha in 2019, and recently broke 1:44 for the first time since 2020. In his only Diamond League race this year, Hoppel placed 6th, but it was also his first DL race of the season. He definitely has the capability to run well in a slower race while turning it up for a race that is a bit quicker.

Lastly, Isaiah Harris qualified for his first U.S. team since 2017. Harris comes into Budapest in close to if not the best form of his life, recently running 1:44.85 in at the Sunset Tour 800m, only a few tenths of a second off his PB. His second place finish at USAs is tied for his best finish in what was an incredible physical and slow race. For Harris, it is about getting himself into the final in order to compete for a medal.

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Other notable runners include Australian record holder Joseph Deng, fellow Aussie Peter Bol, and Brit Max Burgin.

Who will win the 800m at Worlds?

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LRC Prediction: 1. Wanyonyi 2. Moula 3. Arop

A teenage world champ is our pick.

There is also a scenario where none of these men medal, but given Moula’s favorable results in the Diamond League and Wanyonyi’s one-loss season, those two definitely lead the race to top the podium. Arop is in the final medal position as he has proven he can do it once before.

More: Other LRC Previews: *M800m *M 1500 *MSteeple *M 10K *W 10K

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