© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated
Is this the year that 23-year-old Kenyan Mary Moraa breaks out and becomes one of the top 800-metre of runners all-time?
She will be racing in Silesia, Poland during the Diamond League meet Sunday as she fine-tunes her fitness for the Budapest World Athletics Championships happening in August.
Moraa has been overshadowed by the dual breakout performances by Athing Mu of the US and Keely Hodgkinson of the UK. The two went gold-silver at the Tokyo Olympic Games both at age 19. They repeated the order during the Eugene World Athletics Championships last year.
Commonwealth games Champion Mary Moraa is lining up in the 800m in Silesia on Sunday.— Lynne Wachira (@WachiraLynne) July 15, 2023
Moraa has been working on her speed this season – two National records in the 400m are in the bag so far ( 50:44secs at the Gaberone Meet in Botswana 🇧🇼 & 50:38secs at the 🇰🇪 National trials pic.twitter.com/7vd6Ec2fa8
Moraa took third in Eugene in the time of 1:56.71. She has won five Diamond League meets in 2022 and 2023. Surprisingly, Moraa took down Hodgkinson during the Commonwealth Games winning gold in the time of 1:57.07 last August. In fairness, Hodgkinson who clocked a silver-medal-winning 1:57.40 was racing a lot including at the Worlds, Europeans and Commonwealth Games.
Since the pandemic started, many national, meet, regional and world records have been improved upon. But not the Kenyan and not the world 800m records. The Kenyan record is 1:54.01 set by Pamela Jelimo in 2008. The World record dates even further back as it was set by Jarmila Kratochvílová of former Czechoslovakia in 1983 in Munich, Germany.
Two years ago when Mu ran 1:55.04 it seemed that Kratochvílová’s record will be approached. After all, Mu’s time was achieved by a teenager during the super spike era.
Mu doesn’t race often, but when she does, she wins. Having switched cities and coaches to Bob Kersee in Los Angeles, it will be interesting to see how she does at the Budapest World Athletics Championships. Hodgkinson, who is racing more often seems set to be a medal contender again. But the question is, will she remain a bride’s maid or take down Mu, who she hasn’t yet beat or hold off the apparently fast-rising Moraa?
Hodgkinson wanted to improve her 400m personal best, she has done that with her 51.76 this week in Espoo, Finland. Moraa, Mu and others still have faster 400m bests. In the context of the so-called sprint portion of the race or the final 200m, a fast 400m time helps but isn’t everything. Mu has run sub-50. The difference in their 800m time is less.
Shades of New Zealand’s Peter Snell who entered the final of the 1960 Tokyo and 1964 Rome Olympic Games carrying the slowest 200m personal best time of the field. But won the 800m both times, “sprinting” from 600m and on. It is believed that Snell’s more voluminous training gave him the ability to take in more oxygen from the 600m mark through to the finish line. His sprint speed was secondary.
Moraa is currently ranked number one in the world. Hodgkinson is second and Jamaican Natoya Goule-Toppin is third, American Ajee Wilson is fourth. Interestingly, American Sage Hurta-Klecker age 25 may be one to watch, she owns a best of 1:57.85 from 2022. She was not able to crack the two-minute barrier until she joined On Athletics Club with coach Dathan Ritzenhein. Mu hasn’t raced the 800m since January, in a cruisy 1:58.73, so, she is currently ranked 198th. That will surely change over the next few weeks.