The men’s 800m at the last IAAF World Championships in London produced a race that will be fondly remembered in France, and far beyond, as Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, super-talented but injury-prone, boldly defeated a field of runners who, in several cases, had run a lot faster than him in the preceding weeks and months.
Bosse’s winning time, a season’s best of 1:44.67, was, in today’s exalted currency, decent but hardly stellar. Nor was the time of the silver medallist, Poland’s Adam Kszczot – 1:44.95.
Unlike the 2012 Olympic final, when David Rudisha lowered his world record to 1:40.91 with 18-year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana in his wake in 1:41.73, this global final was about tactics rather than all-out speed.
And there is every likelihood that the 800m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 will be determined by similarly wily means.
As far as this event is concerned, this season’s main drama has centred on Amos – still incredibly, only 25 – who won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco in 1:41.89, the fastest seen this year and the fastest time recorded since the 2012 Olympics.
Just over a week later, however, Amos’s season appeared to have come off the rails as he pulled up during the 800m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London and hobbled from the track.
All done? Not so. Two weeks later, back he came for the first IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich, where he took second place in 1:42.98 behind an inspired Donovan Brazier of the United States, who won the Diamond trophy with a personal best of 1:42.70.
Brazier and his US colleague Clayton Murphy, fifth in Zurich in 1:43.94, will be serious contenders in Qatar, as will the men who finished third and fourth in that race, Canada’s Brandon McBride and Emmanuel Korir, who is sixth on the world all-time list and the second fastest Kenyan ever behind Rudisha after clocking 1:42.05 last year.
Korir’s compatriot Ferguson Rotich, second on this year’s world list with 1:42.54, is another obvious medal contender.
But what of the defending champion? On the eve of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris last month Bosse, in characteristically quirky fashion, announced that he regarded the Pole who had followed him home in London, Kszczot, as the most dangerous threat to his title, more dangerous even than Amos.
What persuaded Bosse in this was the superb competitive record of a man whose 2011 personal best of 1:43.30 puts him just inside the 60 fastest performers ever.
Kszczot has two world silvers, world indoor gold, silver and bronze, and three European golds both outdoors and indoors.
Bosse, meanwhile, proclaimed in Paris that the longstanding hamstring problem that had caused him pain for four years had been successfully treated, and that he felt “great”. The next day he finished sixth in the Stade Charlety, running his fastest time of the season, 1:45.07, which puts him 22nd on the entry list. But you cannot discount this unpredictable talent. Any race with Bosse in it is an interesting race.
Puerto Rico’s Wesley Vazquez has honed his tactics on the international circuit this year and was rewarded with a national record of 1:43.83 when finishing a close second to McBride in Paris.
Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina has returned to form this year, clocking a season’s best of 1:43.62. The last time he bettered 1:44 was in 2015, the year in which he took the world bronze medal.
The home supporters, meanwhile, will cheer on Qatar’s Abubaker Haydar Abdalla who started the season in fine form by winning the Asian 800m title at Doha’s Khalifa Stadium in a PB of 1:44.33. His form has dipped slightly since then, but he will be keen to raise his game again in front of a home crowd.
Given the mix of competitors this time around, the men’s 800m promises to be one of the most fascinating unfolding narratives of these Championships.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF