Who will win women’s 800-metre final race?



© Copyright – 2013 – Athletics Illustrated

ATHLETE SB – 2013 PB Semi-Final Prelim
Alysia Johnson Montano  USA 01:57.8 01:57.3 01:58.9 01:59.5
Brenda Martinez  USA 01:58.2 01:58.2 01:59.3 01:59.4
Nataliia Lupu UKR 01:59.4 01:58.5 01:59.4 01:59.6
Ekaterina Poistogova  RUS 01:59.4 01:57.5 01:59.5 01:59.9
Lenka Masná  CZE 01:59.6 01:59.6 01:59.6 02:00.3
Eunice Jepkoech Sum  KEN 02:00.1 01:59.1 02:00.7 02:00.5
Mariya Savinova  RUS 01:58.7 01:55.9 02:00.7 01:59.4
Ajee Wilson  USA 01:59.6 01:59.6 02:00.9 02:00.0


Who will win the women’s 800-metre final at the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships? The race is scheduled for the final day of competition on Sunday the 18th of August.

The women’s 800-metre final will likely prove once again, that the two-lap race is the most competitive in all distance running events. The fields are deep and the potential to affect the outcome by racing with poor tactics is extreme; mistakes cannot be afforded to anyone. The 800-metre race is the only event where a positive split (a faster first half) is typically a good idea.

It is likely that the above qualifiers for the finals of the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships women’s 800-metre race will finish in an order not too different from how they are listed above. The order above is based on their semi-final qualifying times. Anything can and does happen at the top of international competition however, note that the order of personal bests almost match the order of the semi-final finishing times. The only outlier is Mariya Savinova of Russia, who owns a personal best time of 1:55.87, nearly two seconds faster than her next competitor Alysia Johnson Montano. The question is, has Montano put too much into her first two races?

Savinova won London Olympic and Daegu World Championships gold medals. She has the ability to perform on the day, as she ran to her personal best (1:55.87) in the finals of the London Olympics and ran her second-fastest time in the finals of the Daegu Worlds Championship meet; when it counted most. Will she win in Moscow? It appears she has saved herself for the final, a smart non-move.

Various common race tactics include starting out fast for those athletes who do not possess a strong finishing kick, so to take the sting out of those who do. This can work well, and it can be argued that in the 1500-metre women’s final at these worlds, Jennifer Simpson of the USA did just that, earning a silver medal for her efforts. Another common tactic is to sit and kick, to run somewhere back of first place, trying not to get boxed in and at the right time – dependent on the athlete’s strengths, kick from 100-metres or 150-metres or 200-metres out. The former often results in great final stretch runs yet slower times on the clock. This is why personal bests and national records do not normally happen during the preliminary and semi-final heats, but can indeed show up in the final, as per Savinova in London and Daegu.

Of the qualifiers for the final event, listed above, all could have just as easily not qualified for the final. For example Great Britain’s Marilyn Okoro, who ran 1:59.43 in the preliminary heats, finishing second to American Brenda Martinez and running the second-fastest time of all four heats, which were made up of eight runners each for a total of 32 competitors. Her personal best is 1:58.45.

It could be that she is more of a sprinter, coming up from the 400m distance where she has won at an international level, where here at the Worlds, most of her competitors are true 800m or distance athletes however; her personal best and preliminary heat times are good enough to move on, if she could have made it through the rounds. Okoro finished second-to-last in the semi’s with a finish time of 2:02.26, which was the second slowest of all 16 athletes, a complete turn in performance. It is likely that being a former 400m runner she gave the first race all she had to offer.

Russian Elena Kotulskaya qualified for the semi-finals by running in a tactical heat, finishing second, she followed that up with a semi-final 2:01.75. What happened? Perhaps she doesn’t have a kick, the opposite of what may have ailed Okoro. Kotulskaya’s fitness, if off her best by any measure, would simply mean that she does not have the engine to run the legs off her competition in an 800-metre race. Perhaps she just hung on to the pace and subsequently faded. But with her personal best of 1:57.77 she owns the third-fastest personal best time of all competitors, proving that once again the 800m distance race is likely the deepest and most competitive events in distance running.

Actual finish time

Eunice Jepkoech Sum Ken 01:57.4 PB
Mariya Savinova RUS 01:57.8 SB
Brenda Martinez USA 01:57.9 PB
Alysia Johnson Montano USA 01:58.0
Ekaterina Poistogova RUS 01:58.0 SB
Ajee Wilson USA 01:58.2 PB
Nataliia Lupu UKR 01:59.8
Lenka Masná CZE 02:00.6

Predicted finish (just for kicks)

ATHLETE SB – 2013 PB Semi-Final Prelim Predicted time
Mariya Savinova  RUS 01:58.7 01:55.9 02:00.7 01:59.5 01:57.0
Alysia Johnson Montano  USA 01:57.8 01:57.3 01:58.92 01:59.4 01:57.5
Brenda Martinez  USA 01:58.2 01:58.2 01:59.03 01:59.6 01:58.0
Ekaterina Poistogova  RUS 01:59.4 01:57.5 01:59.5 01:59.9 01:58.5
Ajee Wilson  USA 01:59.6 01:59.6 02:00.90 02:00.3 01:59.0
Nataliia Lupu UKR 01:59.4 01:58.5 01:59.4 02:00.5 01:59.0
Lenka Masná  CZE 01:59.6 01:59.6 01:59.6 01:59.4 01:59.0
Eunice Jepkoech Sum  KEN 02:00.1 01:59.1 02:00.7 02:00.0 01:59.0