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There is plenty of competition left to go at the 2015 Beijing IAAF World Track and Field Championships. One of the more exciting events to go is the women’s 800-metre race. Unlike the men’s 800m, where the gold and silver medallists could be predicted well in advance, the women’s race could go to anyone of several athletes.
The athletes with the fastest seasonal bests are Selina Buchel of Switzerland with her time of 1:57.95, which also happens to be her personal best and Rose Mary Almanza of Cuba has run slightly faster at 1:57.70, this is also her personal best time. These two athletes are having the season of their lives. However, they are not without serious competition.
Kenyan Eunice Jepkoech Sum is likely the favourite to win gold. Sum’s personal best is a super-elite 1:56.99. She is the defending champion and is riding an excellent season having achieved her personal best time in Paris in June of 2015. She is also the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medallist. She has proven to win races that split the first 400m slow or run under 58 seconds. She will be tough to beat.
Countrywomen Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei owns a personal best of 1:56.04. This is an outstanding, world-class time, but it dates back to 2007. This season, she has had the best opportunity to show her speed, but she has managed to run under two-minutes a couple of times including a 1:59.37. The 31-year-old Kenyan is not past her prime yet. Up to two years ago she was running in the 1:57s and over the past couple of years as fast as into the 1:58s. The race will have to play to her strengths, meaning like a very fast first 600m for her.
Busienei earned a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, so she does have fond memories from racing the Bird’s Nest stadium. She has also won each colour of medal between the 2007, 2009 and 2011 IAAF Championships.
American Brenda Martinez earned a bronze medal two years ago in Moscow at the 2013 championships. She has only run under 1:58 once, but it was at that Moscow meet where she performed her best. Perhaps she rises to the occasion.
Fellow American Alysia Montano has the speed. If it comes down to a very fast final lap, the race will play into her hands. She is a former 400-metre runner who moved up to the 800-metre distance. Over the past five years she has run consistently under two minutes and several races each year have been in the 1:57-high to 1:59-low range. Her best is 1:57.34 run five years ago, however, she is only just over a year removed from running in the 1:57s. Montano earned a bronze medal in the 2010 Doha IAAF Indoor World Track and Field Championships.
Molly Beckwith-Ludlow Dropped her time this year into the 1:58s; she could be a serious consideration for top-five or again a medal if the race plays into her hands.
Caster Semenya of South Africa is an unknown at this time. Semenya has run a ridiculously fast time at 1:55.45, but that was six years ago. Since then she hasn’t run anywhere near as fast. With her genetic issues to do with her having aspects of both male and female sport organizations and competitors have wondered if she should be allowed to compete against other women. Who will show up in Beijing this year? The Sub-1:57 athlete or the 2:00-plus runner that has been lately?
There are twenty-eight women who have personal bests under the two-minute benchmark; twenty have done so this season. Two Canadians are in the mix to make the final in Fiona Benson of Langley, BC and Melissa Bishop of Eganville, Ontario. They have the potential to fight for a medal, both have run new personal bests this season. Bishop won gold during the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games.
As with any 800-metre race it all comes down to factors such as show fast the first 400-metres and 600-metres go, getting boxed in or not, being too far off the back at the wrong time or leading for too long. On any given day, any athlete who can run under the 2:00 benchmark can get into the right race (for them) and medal, but the Kenyan will be very difficult to beat no matter how the race plays out.
The heats start at 7:55 PM PST 10:55 PM EST tonight. Full schedule can be found here.