EUGENE, Oregon (23-Jul) — Through the end of June, reigning Olympic 800m champion Emmanuel Korir had only run three 800m races this year, had only broken 1:46.00 once, and never finished higher than fifth. Read more: Women’s 5000m results – Gudaf Tsegay wins gold, Sifan Hassan finished 6th
However, since winning at a low-key meeting in France on July 4, Korir has yet to lose a race, including all three rounds here in Eugene at the World Athletics Championships Oregon 22, where he just won his first world title in the sixth-fastest time in the world this year, at 1:43.71.
Korir, 27, who is unsponsored and was managing a calf injury for much of this year, ran a perfectly-executed race, taking advantage of his powerful closing speed to clinch the medal in the final 50 meters. He said he was ready for any kind of race today.
“Being in the field you have to expect different scenarios to happen,” Korir explained to two reporters. “The race might be fast, and it might be slow. So, what are you going to do? I placed myself in a good position knowing that anything can happen.”
Korir stayed off the front through the first lap, running a close fifth to Canada’s Marco Arop who split the 400 in a not-too-fast 52.1 seconds. At the time, Korir was also behind France’s Gabriel Tual, Algeria’s Slimane Moula, and his Kenyan teammate Wyclife Kinyamal.
Arop continued to lead down the backstretch and through 600m (1:17.6) and Korir was only in fourth position with 200 meters to go. He said he was feeling fatigued but was trying to stay engaged in the fight.
“To be honest, I was not fresh,” Korir admitted with a laugh. “I was struggling. Nothing was fresh there.” He added: “Inside me I was working hard.”
Rounding the final bend Arop still held the lead, but Korir was sprinting hard. The big Canadian had a good gap, but began to tie up with about 50 meters to go. Korir, pumping his arms furiously, caught Arop with about 30 meters to go.
Behind him Algeria’s Djamel Sedjati was also sprinting hard and also managed to pass Arop inside of the final 10 meters to take the silver medal in 1:44.14. Arop was far enough ahead of Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi to defend the bronze medal position in 1:44.28.
Korir’s victory was remarkable considering his lack of dedicated preparation due to his calf problem.
“Even though I knew I was not in good form because of injuries and whatever I did my best here,” he said. “I said, let me do this trying to gain the courage again and again, and here I am.”
By winning here tonight, Korir became the first man in history to win an Olympic 800m title then come back in the following year to win a World Athletics 800m title.
|1||KEN||Emmanuel Kipkurui KORIR||1:43.71 SB|
|8||KEN||Wyclife Kinyamal KISASY||1:47.07|
Photos by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly