By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BUDAPEST (23-Aug) — There were no surprises in the women’s 800m qualifying which took place mid-morning in 90-degree heat. All of the medal favorites advanced, including defending champion Athing Mu of the USA who won the seventh and final heat in 1:59.59, fifth-fastest time of the day.
Mu, 21, who wore a special pair of sequined Nike racing shoes, took the lead from the gun and opened up a five-meter gap on Jamaica’s Natoya Goule-Toppin. She split halfway in a crisp 58.1 seconds, and was still the leader at 600m.
Rounding the final bend, Goule-Toppin started to close the gap, and actually edged past Mu inside of the final 20 meters, but Mu pressed a little more to get the win with Goule-Toppin second in 1:59.64.
“You know, I just wanted to finish and make the top two,” Goule-Toppin told Race Results Weekly. “I made the first lap a little easy for myself because it’s just the first round; I just wanted to qualify, I just wanted to finish. You’ve still got to push at the end of an 800m.”
Athing Mu did not stop to speak with the media.
Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain, last summer’s silver medalist in Eugene, won the first heat in 1:59.53. Typically a front-runner, the 21 year-old decided to sit back this morning and was only in sixth position at the bell. She said that was her plan today.
“I wanted to sit back and qualify, safely,” she told a group of mostly British reporters in the mixed zone while cooling herself with a hand-held fan. “I didn’t go to the front like I usually do. I thought I’d sit back and see what the girls would do and I just chased them in the last 200.”
When asked about the heat she said, “The conditions (are) awful, to be honest.”
Two of the other three Americans –Raevyn Rogers and Nia Akins– advanced to Friday’s semi-finals without incident. Rogers, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, finished second to Kenya’s Mary Moraa, the bronze medalist from Eugene last summer, in the second heat.
Moraa led from gun to tape and Rogers simply followed and avoided trouble. The two women were clocked in 1:59.89 and 2:00.06, respectively.
“Yeah, it felt great,” Rogers told Race Results Weekly. “I just felt very vulnerable to whatever the pace was going to get. I think I pushed myself in that way because I want to get used to this fast pace and get done with this first round.”
When asked about the heat, Rogers was unfazed. “I mean, I’m from Texas,” she said. “It was hot before we left Portland (where she trains with the Nike Union Athletics Club); it was in the 100’s. So, honestly, the way it feels now is how it felt when I left Portland.”
Akins won the fifth heat over Britain’s Jemma Reekie, coming from third place on the final bend to first, in 1:59.19. Like Mu, she did not speak with the media.
The other key athletes who advanced were Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi, the 2019 world champion (she won the fourth heat); Slovenia’s Anita Horvat, the 2023 European Indoor Championships silver medalist (she was third in heat 5); and France’s Rénelle Lamote, the 2019 European Championships silver medalist (she was third in heat 4).
Also advancing was Canada’s Jazz Shukla. The reigning Canadian champion finished fourth in the second heat in a personal best 2:00.30 and had to wait 45 minutes in the “Q Room,” an open-air lounge on the apron of the track, to learn her fate.
After the final heat was finished she learned she was the second of three time qualifiers. She felt more relief than joy, she said.
“It’s a bit of a weird feeling to be sitting there waiting to see if other people ran faster than you and almost hoping that they don’t,” she told Race Results Weekly. “It’s not something that I’d love to repeat. Big Q’s only next time, I guess.”