Two years ago in Sopot, Poland, Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia spoiled the party for the hosts, defeating home favourites Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski to take gold in the men’s 800m and become – at 18 years, 61 days – the youngest ever champion at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Now 20, the Ethiopian will look to play a similar role on US soil as he takes on home favourites Boris Berian and Erik Sowinski. Though Portland is some 8000 miles from home for Aman, it will have a familiar feel as he trains just a two-hour drive away in Eugene. Aman, though, has been a shadow of his former self this season, able to finish only third in both Torun and Stockholm before failing to finish in Glasgow.
As such, the mantle of favourite may rest with Qatar’s Abdulrahman Musaeb Balla, who has run 1:45.93 this year and was victorious at the Asian Indoor Championships in Doha last month.
However, the USA can be also be expected to launch a strong challenge. Their leading athlete Boris Berian gave himself perfect preparation last weekend when leading from gun to tape at the US Championships at the Oregon Convenion Center, coming home a clear winner – and looking well within himself – in 1:47.19. Runner-up Sowinski, despite not reaching the qualifying standard of 1:46.50, will join Berian on the US team after receiving an IAAF invitation.
Kenyan duo Edward Kemboi and Jeremiah Mutai should both mount a strong challenge, while Spain’s Alvaro De Arriba – who lowered his indoor personal best to 1:46.63 this year – should also be in the reckoning.
If someone is to emulate Aman’s success as a teenager two years ago, then Morocco’s Mostafa Smaili – who is 19 and has run 1:46.50 this year – looks the most likely to do so.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF