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Event Report - Women 800 m Final

Calatyud wins in Cuban style

Zulia Calatyud evoked memories of the great Cuban champion Ana Quirot as she effortlessly destroyed a world class field to win the women’s 800m final on a rain-soaked track this evening.

The 25 year-old produced a perfectly controlled, beautifully judged display of middle distance running to inflict defeat on reigning double world champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique and a trio of much-fancied Russians who have blown away almost everyone else on the circuit this year.

Quirot, the world champion in 1995 and 1997, could not have run better than this. Calatyud’s winning time, 1:58.82, was slower than either of her compatriot’s victories but the manner of her performance was every bit as impressive Quirot’s 10 years ago when she returned from a serious domestic accident to win her first world title.

Calatyud has twice been an Olympic finalist, but she’s never looked this good. Left in her wake were Morocco’s Olympic silver medallist Hasna Benhassi and Russia’s Tatyana Andrianova who has been the world’s leading two-lap runner all year.

Benhassi now has another piece of silver to add to her collection as she came second in 1:59.42. Andrianova took the bronze in 1:59.60, fading in the straight but holding off Mutola who finished fourth, just as she did in Athens last summer.

By her own admission Mutola hasn’t been at her best this year as her form’s been hampered by injuries. But it was she who took on the early pace, leading the field through 200m in 28.42 with Calatyud on her shoulder and Andrianova plus USA’s Hazel Clark sitting just behind.

The same two led through the bell in 60.72 as all eight athletes were closely bunched. No one made a move until half way down the back straight where, as Mutola drifted out to counter the challenge of Calatyud, Andrianova squeezed through on the inside.

Benhassi, who’d sat at the back for most of the race, began to move up as the Cuban started her attack. Winding up the pace slowly, she led through 600m as Mutola was swallowed by the Moroccan and the Russian. It looked like she was finished, but Mutola hasn’t won three world titles without knowing how to fight.

Calatyud stretched again around the bend and began to pull away as they entered the straight. Briefly, it seemed Andrianova was closing the gap but Calatyud had much in reserve.

Looking totally relaxed, she opened her legs again 80 metres from the line and pulled away. While the rest were fighting and struggling behind her, she seemed to float over the wet surface and crossed the line with more than half a second to spare.

Mutola, having looked out of it at 600m, fought her way through for fourth, missing her sixth world championship medal by 0.11 seconds.

All that remained for Calatyud was to enjoy her lap of honour and receive the congratulations of Cuba’s 1976 Olympic champion Alberto Juantorena – a fitting tribute for such a fine performance.