Mariya Savinova (L) of Russia crosses the line to win the women's 800m gold medal with Jennifer Meadows (GBR) in silver (Getty Images) © Copyright
“I had my tactics, but I didn’t expect such a fast race,” said the 24-year-old Russian, who outmuscled Jenny Meadows of Great Britain over the final 50 metres en route to a 1:58. 26 run, the year’s fastest.
With the race not playing into her tactics, Savinova was forced to be react, and the Russian champion was clearly the quickest to adapt to the race she was given.
American Alysia Johnson, drawing lane 1, took the early lead, leading the pack through the first 400 metres in a quick 58.16. Egle Bulciunaite of Lithuania and Meadows followed, with Savinova and the other semi-final winner, Anna Piece of the USA, deciding to bring up the rear.
Meadows moved into second just past midway point, and into the lead with about 300 metres to go, with Johnson, a former NCAA champion, working hard to maintain contact.
Moving up on the outside, Savinova moved into second behind Meadows at the bell, and after gradually chewing up the gap created by the Briton, moved to the front for good midway through the homestretch.
Meadows was second in 1:58.43, her second national record in the event this winter.
“It was a big challenge and the girls were enormously strong,” said Meadows, who took bronze last summer at the World Championships after being shut out of the medals at the European Championships indoors. “When I saw the time I told to myself that at least it was a new PB. So I think silver is fantastic.
Rewarded for her early front-running Johnson held on and finished third, clocking 1:59.60, a career best for the 23-year-old.
“It's amazing,” said Johnson, who always runs with a flower in her hair. Here, it was a yellow daisy. “It was no walk in the park. I was going for the gold and pushed myself for it. But I'm very happy with the bronze, obviously. And I'm happy that I gave so much for it.”
Her compatriot, Pierce, among the pre-race favourites, was never in the hunt. Last at the bell, she simply left herself with too much ground to cover. Although making chase, she was a distant fourth in 2:00.53, also a personal best.
Balciunaite was fifth in 2:01.37, a Lithuanian national record.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF