Isn’t that just like the frustrations of life in general? After waiting patiently all summer for a sub-1:44 clocking in the men’s 800m, suddenly two come along in sequence.
Only a few weeks after Denmark’s 800m World record holder Wilson Kipketer retired, a man who had made 1:43 seem common place during his career, suddenly the world’s two-lap running elite reawakened itself to the possibilities of such times after a whole year of comparative chronometric lethargy.
On 5 September 2004 in Rieti, Italy, there can’t have been many athletics fans, let alone the athlete’s themselves who would have believed that when Kenyan Joseph Mutua won the 800m in a time of 1:43.35 that it would be a full year before the world would happen upon another sub-1:44 race.
But that is exactly what it took, one entire year. Until the following edition of the Rieti IAAF Grand Prix which was held last weekend (28 Aug), the world’s best had appeared to be running in treacle syrup. It took Kenyan World championship fourth placer Wilfred Bungei following on the heels of Brazilian pacemaker Osmar Dos Santos for the first 600m (passed halfway in 50.78) to finally make 1:44 look ordinary, as he won in 1:43.70, the fastest time in the world of 2005.
Ironically, in 2004 Bungei’s time wouldn’t even have secured him second place in Rieti, as on that occasion Mutua had been closely followed home by Bahrain’s Youssef Saad Kamel (1:43.43). Incidentally, Wilson Kipketer was third in 2004 in 1:43.89. Now that was a quality 800m.
Last night (31 Aug) in another Italian meeting in Rovereto, Kamel (the former Kenyan Gregory Konchellah) was also back under 1:44, running the second fastest time of the year with 1:43.96 - a meet record.
Perhaps significantly, both Bungei and Kamel train together in Italy, possessing the same manager and coach, and if they can show the same resolve as they did in Italy these last few days, it would seem certain that the last TDK Golden League meeting of the season in Berlin, Germany on Sunday (4 Sep), could see even faster times now that this '1:44' psychological barrier has been removed.
Inspiring both men on Sunday should be the presence of much of the World Championship Final field headed by Bahrain’s 800m gold medallist Rashid Ramzi, who is looking for IAAF World Ranking points to qualify at the distance for the World Athletics Final (9 / 10 Sep). Osmar Dos Santos will also be on hand again to ensure the pace is true.
Chris Turner for the IAAF
ISTAF BERLIN - 800m Start List as at 29 Aug
Mulaudzi, Mbulaeni RSA
Kamel, Youssef-Saad BRN
Laalou, Amine MAR
Bungei, Wilfried KEN
Herms, Rene GER
Reed, Gary CAN
Reina, Antonio ESP
Dos Santos, Osmar BRA
Chehibi, Mouhssin MAR
Ramzi, Rachid BRN
Djabir, Said Guerni ALG
Yego, Alfred-Kirwa KEN