Olympic Men’s 800 — The Kenyan Tradition Continues

A 1–2 by Emmanuel Korir & Ferguson Rotich added 2 more medals to Kenya’s 800 trove. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

KENYAN TRACK SUCCESS is frequently associated with the steeplechase, but the country’s Olympic prowess has been almost as prolific over two laps of the track as Emmanuel Korir became its seventh men’s 800 winner in the last 10 editions.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Korir topped our formchart coming in, but the odds shifted to Korir’s compatriot Ferguson Rotich after he posted the fastest heat and semi times with 1:43.75 (the second-fastest non-final ever, in any meet) and 1:44.04. But in the end, Korir — the ’17 NCAA champ indoors and out during his brief eligibility at UTEP before turning pro — ran a much more astute final to win in 1:45.06.

In some respects, the final unfolded in unsatisfactory fashion, especially after a slew of fast times in the heats and semis and was a far cry from the classic contests of recent vintage.

After a respectable 12.6 first 100 to the break, the field then almost ambled through the next furlong, with Korir at the front along with Australia’s Peter Bol, who had clocked NRs of 1:44.13 and then 1:44.11 in his first two races in Tokyo.

Bol then decided to inject a modicum of pace as they came into the homestraight for the first time and before leading the field through the bell in 53.76, the slowest OG opening lap since ’80.

At the start of the second circuit, Korir was handily placed just behind Bol with Rotich back in 5th and the only U.S. representative, Clayton Murphy, right at the back of the 9-man field.

The Aussie ramped up the pace and continued to lead down the backstraight for the second time, with Korir up on his shoulder at 600 — passed in 1:19.7 — and Poland’s neophyte Patryk Dobek 3rd and trying to find a way through on the inside.

With just under 150 to go, Korir made a perfectly timed move and swept around Bol and was then never headed as he held his form all the way to the line.

The tiring Bol was passed first by Dobek and then the fast-finishing Rotich 40m from the line, the latter weaving between the Australian and the Pole to engineer himself into 2nd, taking the silver in 1:45.23 while Dobek, better known as a 400 hurdler until the start of the year when he changed events and made his name by taking the Euro Indoor title, got a surprise bronze in 1:45.39.

Said Korir, who trains in El Paso under ’88 winner Paul Ereng, “This is a big thing for me after failing to qualify for the final in the 2017 and 2019 WC [although he did finish 6th in the Doha 400]. But today is my day. There was nobody who wanted to take the pace, so I just said I was going to control it. But the Australian guy, Bol, he did something good for me.

“I will still continue running the 400 and 800. I want to achieve 43 seconds in the 400 and maybe one day 1:40 in the 800, and maybe a World Record. It’s going to be my happiness if I will make it,” added the 44.21(A) performer, who false-started out of his 400 heat here.

Rotich, 5th in the Rio 800 and a bronze medalist in the ’19 WC won by the absent Donavan Brazier, was left to rue being boxed when Korir made his move. “A thought came in my mind that ‘Oh, you are late!’ And I just came out very quickly and I moved forward.”

Rio bronze medalist Murphy looked like he might contend for another medal after finishing an impressive 2nd in his semi in 1:44.18 but never troubled the leaders and trailed home last, disappointment etched across his face.

The other two U.S. runners, Bryce Hoppel and Isaiah Jewett, departed at the semifinal stage, the latter getting tangled with Amos with the pair crashing to the track although Jewett was deemed the guilty party and Amos advanced to the final on appeal.


MEN’S 800 RESULTS

(August 04) (temperature 82F/28C; humidity 72%)

1. Emmanuel Korir (Ken) 1:45.06

(24.9, 29.1 [54.0], 25.8 [1:19.8], 25.3) (12.8, 25.3, 51.1) (54.0/51.1);

2. Ferguson Rotich (Ken) 1:45.23

(25.1, 29.1 [54.2], 26.0 [1:20.2], 25.0) (12.3, 25.0, 51.0) (54.2/51.0);

3. Patryk Dobek (Pol) 1:45.39

(25.4, 28.8 [54.2], 25.8 [1:20.0], 25.4) (12.8, 25.4, 51.2) (54.2/51.2);

4. Peter Bol (Aus) 1:45.92

(24.9, 28.9 [53.76], 25.9 [1:19.7], 26.2) (13.5, 26.2, 52.1) (53.76/52.16);

5. Adrian Ben (Spa) 1:45.96

(25.4, 28.9 [54.3], 25.9 [1:20.2], 25.8) (13.1, 25.8, 51.7) (54.3/51.7);

6. Amel Tuka (Bos) 1:45.98

(25.2, 29.2 [54.4], 26.0 [1:20.4], 25.6) (13.0, 25.6, 51.6) (54.4/51.6);

7. Gabriel Tual (Fra) 1:46.03

(25.1, 29.2 [54.3], 26.1 [1:20.4], 25.6) (12.9, 25.6, 51.7) (54.3/51.7);

8. Nijel Amos (Bot) 1:46.41

(25.0, 29.0 [54.0], 26.0 [1:20.0], 26.4) (13.7, 26.4, 52.4) (54.09/52.4);

9. Clayton Murphy (US) 1:46.53

(25.1, 29.4 [54.5], 26.0 [1:20.5], 26.0) (13.3, 26.0, 52.0) (54.5/52.0).

HEATS (July 31)

I–1. Rotich 1:43.75; 2. Bol 1:44.13 NR; 3. Elliot Giles (GB) 1:44.49; 4. Abdellatif El Guesse (Mor) 1:44.84 PR; 5. Isaiah Jewett (US) 1:45.07; 6. Tony van Diepen (Neth) 1:46.03; 7. Pol Moya Betriu (And) 1:47.44; 8. Musa Hajdari (KOS) 1:48.96.

II–1. Marco Arop (Can) 1:45.26; 2. Tuka 1:45.48; 3. Tual 1:45.63; 4. Pablo Sánchez-Valladares (Spa) 1:46.06; 5. Andreas Kramer (Swe) 1:46.44; 6. Oliver Dustin (GB) 1:46.94; 7. Alex Beddoes (COK) 1:47.26 NR; 8. Francky Mbotto (CAf) 1:48.26 NR.

III–1. Murphy 1:45.53; 2. Daniel Rowden (GB) 1:45.73; 3. Abdessalem Ayouni (Tun) 1:45.73; 4. Charlie Hunter (Aus) 1:45.91; 5. Saul Ordóñez (Spa) 1:45.98; 6. Brandon McBride (Can) 1:46.32; 7. Melese Nberet (Eth) 1:47.80; 8. James Nyang Chiengjiek (SSD) 2:02.04 PR.

IV–1. Amos 1:45.04; 2. Michael Saruni (Ken) 1:45.21; 3. Ben 1:45.30; 4. Jeff Riseley (Aus) 1:45.41; 5. Nabil Oussama (Mor) 1:45.64; 6. Pierre-Ambroise Bosse (Fra) 1:45.97; 7. Ryan Sanchez (PR) 1:47.07; 8. Thiago André (Bra) 1:47.75.

V–1. Jesus López (Mex) 1:46.14; 2. Eliott Crestan (Bel) 1:46.19; 3. Dobek 1:46.59; 4. Mark English (Ire) 1:46.75; 5. Benjamin Robert (Fra) 1:47.12; 6. Eric Nzikwinkunda (Bur) 1:47.97; 7. Andrés Arroyo (PR) 1:53.09; 8. Dennick Luke (DMA) 1:54.30.

VI–1. Korir 1:45.33; 2. Mateusz Borkowski (Pol) 1:45.34; 3. Bryce Hoppel (US) 1:45.64; 4. Mostafa Smaili (Mor) 1:46.05; 5. Yassine Hathat (Alg) 1:46.20; 6. Abubaker Haydar Abdalla (Qat) 1:47.45; 7. Wesley Vázquez (PR) 1:49.06.

SEMIS (August 01)

I–1. Dobek 1:44.60; 2. Korir 1:44.74; 3. López 1:44.77; 4. Crestan 1:44.84 PR; 5. Hoppel 1:44.91; 6. Ayouni 1:44.99 NR; 7. Hunter 1:46.73; 8. El Guesse 1:46.85.

II–1. Bol 1:44.11 NR; 2. Murphy 1:44.18; 3. Tual 1:44.28 PR; 4. Ben 1:44.30; 5. Rowden 1:44.35 (fastest-ever non-qualifier); 6. Saruni 1:44.54; 7. Arop 1:44.90; 8. Borkowski 1:46.54.

III–1. Rotich 1:44.04; 2. Tuka 1:44.53; 3. Giles 1:44.74; 4. Oussama 1:46.42; 5. Riseley 1:47.17; 6. Bosse 1:48.62; 7. Jewett 2:38.12; 8. Amos 2:38.49 (advanced on appeal). ◻︎

Subscription Options

Monthly Subscription
(Digital Only)

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$7.95 every month (recurring)

Annual Subscription
(Digital Only)

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$79.00 every year (recurring)

Monthly Premium Archive
(Digital Only)

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$12.95 every month (recurring)

Annual Premium Archive
(Digital Only)

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$128.00 every year (recurring)

Annual Subscription
(Digital + Print)

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach
  • 12 Monthly Print Issues

$109.00 USA every year (recurring)
$157.00 Canada every year (recurring)
$207.00 Foreign every year (recurring)

Annual Premium Archive
(Digital + Print)

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach
  • 12 Monthly Print Issues

$158.00 USA every year (recurring)
$206.00 Canada every year (recurring)
$256.00 Foreign every year (recurring)

Annual Subscription
(Print Only)

  • 12 Monthly Print Issues
  • Does not include online access or eTrack Results Newsletter

$79.00 USA every year (recurring)
$127.00 Canada every year (recurring)
$177.00 Foreign every year (recurring)

Track Coach
(Digital Only)

  • Track Coach Quarterly Technique Journal
  • Access to Track Coach Archived Issues

Note: Track Coach is included with all Track & Field News digital subscriptions. If you are a current T&FN subscriber, purchase of a Track Coach subscription will terminate your existing T&FN subscription and change your access level to Track Coach content only. Track & Field News print only subscribers will need to upgrade to a T&FN subscription level that includes digital access to read Track Coach issues and articles online.

$19.95 every year (recurring)