Qatar’s Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla underlined his status as favourite for the men’s 800m title when coasting to victory in 1:47.61 during the qualifying heats on Friday afternoon (18).
Balla is the only one of the competitors to have broken 1:46.00 this year – having run 1:45.93 in Stockholm last month – and he ran with the confidence of an athlete vastly superior to his rivals. The 27-year-old shot to the front on the first of four laps, passed 400m in a steady 53.22, and looked well within himself as he maintained the lead throughout the rest of the race and came home in 1:47.61.
Reigning champion Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia closed late to take second in 1:48.02 ahead of Erik Sowinski in 1:48.11. With only the winner of each heat advancing, Aman and Sowinski had a nervous wait before seeing if they had secured a non-automatic qualifying spot, but they duly advanced on time.
In the earlier heats, Burundi’s Antoine Gakeme unleashed a furious sprint on the last lap to take victory in 1:48.09 ahead of Boris Berian of the US (1:48.55), who edged Kenya’s Jeremiah Mutai to advance on time.
Morocco’s Mostafa Smaili was the only athlete to advance from a slow-run first heat, the 19-year-old controlling the race from the front and coming home in 1:52.16, just ahead of Kenya’s Edward Kibet Kemboi (1:52.39) and Spain’s Alvaro De Arriba (1:52.60).
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF