The 800m can often be the most exciting race at a track meet. It is longer than a sprint, but barely and requires similar training volumes to the longer event, even up to the 10,000m and longer. Make a single error during the race and a top athlete can find themselves a tenth of a second from gold in fifth place.

World Athletics has previewed the men’s and women’s 800m event for Tokyo. With the advent of the super shoe and the rise of some youth (not to mention the Caster Semenya ruling), there will likely be three new medallists.

Men’s 800m

A new champion will be crowned in Tokyo for the first time since 2012, with two-time winner David Rudisha not returning to defend his title, and a number of athletes could take the step up to succeed the Kenyan great.

After breaking the world record with 1:40.91 to win his first Olympic gold in 2012, Rudisha became the first man since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1964 to win consecutive 800m titles thanks to his win in Rio four years later. But injury has prevented the 2011 and 2015 world champion from competing since 2017 and during that time the major medals have been split.

France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse won the 2017 world title but finished seventh in his semifinal two years later in Doha, where Donavan Brazier became the first US athlete to win a world 800m gold. The world indoor title in 2018, meanwhile, was claimed by Poland’s Adam Kszczot….

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Women’s 800m

Athing Mu doesn’t mind being called a prodigy. In fact, she embraces it.

“Being a prodigy is something I’ve always wanted to be,” said the 19-year-old US middle-distance star, who has been lighting up the track with a flurry of records. “It’s awesome to be called that.”

Mu’s next wish: becoming an Olympic champion.

That goal is in sight in Tokyo, where she is among the favourites in the 800m and vying to become the first US woman to win gold at the distance in more than 50 years.

“I was made for this,” she said.

Mu (pronounced “Mo”) won the 800m at the US Trials in 1:56.07, the second-fastest time ever for a US woman and the fastest time in the world this year.

Mu burst onto the scene when she was just 16, setting a senior US indoor 600m record of 1:23.57. The athlete from Trenton, New Jersey, has gone on to break a string of high school, collegiate and age-group records from the 400m to the 800m. She was a silver medallist in the 800m at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

This year, as a freshman at Texas A&M, Mu broke six collegiate records, including the indoor 600m and 800m and outdoor 400m and 800m marks. She also set a world U20 indoor 800m record of 1:58.40 in February and followed it outdoors with five North American U20 records over 400m and 800m…

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