Thrilling 800m pleases all three medallists
19 July 2002 - The men’s 800m tonight, unlike the women’s 200m later in the evening, did not require the use of the photo finish equipment to determine the order of the medallists but the last 30 metres couldn’t have been more thrilling.
Six men were still battling for gold after 780 metres of the race. Eventually, and with 5 men even and 5 metres to go it was Kenya’s Alex Kipchirchir’s finishing kick that made the difference and earned him gold.
Silver went to Qatar’s Salem Amer Al-Badri while bronze was claimed by David Fiegen of Luxembourg whose medal was the first ever won by his country at a World Junior Championships.
“This was one of those races! I wanted to ran a 1:44 race before the final but this doesn’t matter anymore now. My gold medal means a lot to me and to my country. I am proud to keep the Kenyan middle distance tradition going.”
Kipchirchir, 18 years of age, was second to last at the bell but with 250 metres to go began making up ground progressively and eventually dipped Al-Badri by a mere 4 hundredths of a second.
“I never thought I’d lose the race even if at some stage I was way behind. I was confident my finishing kick was the best and I just finished as hard as I could.”
Training at high altitude in Kenya most of the time, Kipchirchir received the encouragements of Olympic champion Noah Ngeny before coming to Jamaica.
“Noah Ngeny is the Kenyan runner I admire the most. I know him personally and sometimes we train together. Before the Championships he just told me he was confident I would win the gold medal and told me to believe in myself and stay relaxed.”
A happy man Kipchirchir hadn’t such an easy victory as he would probably have hoped for. Al-Badri, the World Youth Champion last year in Debrecen and only still 17, wasn’t too far behind the Kenyan at the tape.
“All I wanted from this race was to finish second and I did. In addition to that I broke the National record so this is simply a fantastic day for me,” Qatar’s Al-Walid could have been disappointed for finishing so close to the gold medal but disappointment was the last of his thoughts as he heavily celebrated his silver-winning performance.
“I am happy about my race. I am proud for my country. I live in Qatar a country where athletics is breaking through so this medal means a lot to me.”
The 800m final made a third man happy with David Fiegen of Luxembourg taking the bronze.
“I am satisfied. The race was tough, there was a lot of jostling and I was pushed back down to 5th or 6th at some stage of the race. I tried to come back but knew that I had lost precious ground and energy during the pushing and shoving. I could feel that with 20/30 metres to go I was slightly in front but my legs just couldn’t make it. The semi final had been hard and I could feel it in my legs.”
Fiegen, who speaks four languages and thanks to the financial support of the Sport Ministry of Luxembourg can train full time, became the first representative of the Grand Duchy to win a medal at these championships.
“Oh, wow I don’t know if I am the first but if I am well this makes me very proud. Winning a medal at an IAAF Championship is my most important achievement.”