WC Women’s 800 — Nakaayi Sprints To Surprise Gold

Favored Ajee’ Wilson was relegated to bronze as Halimah Nakaayi & Raevyn Rogers swept by her in the homestretch. (KEVIN MORRIS)

DOHA HAD its fair share of surprise winners but a candidate for the biggest shock of them all could be Halimah Nakaayi. The diminutive Ugandan produced a stunning sprint down the homestraight to upset the odds over two laps of the track, which heavily favored American Ajee’ Wilson after her USATF and Diamond League wins. By contrast, although the 24-year-old Nakaayi edged under 2:00 in three back-to-back meets in July, she seemed off the boil in her most recent races, including 8th at the London DL and a disappointing 3rd at the African Games.

With Wilson the only repeater from the London final in a lineup that was missing the ’17 gold and silver medalists, Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba, due to their being banned from the 800 as part of the IAAF’s ongoing testosterone controversy, proceedings got off to a predictable start. Wilson pulled the field through furlong splits of 26.94, 57.96 and 1:28.14, with Nakaayi starting to pressure her on the backstretch second time around. Wilson, the ’17 bronze medalist, initially held her off held and led through the final turn before briefly pulling away but the Ugandan Recordholder, with a best of 1:58.39 from last year, went through the gears and passed the tiring leader with 50 to go before winning in a PR 1:58.04.

Wilson was also edged by 3-time NCAA champ Raevyn Rogers, who chose the right time to have her best race of the year. The Oregon alum—having her first outdoor WC outing after taking a World Junior bronze in ’13—was drifting off the back for much of the second lap. With 100 to go, she was still out-of-it in 7th but blasted up the stretch in 13.86 to snatch silver from Wilson, 1:58.18–1:58.84, going from 6th to 2nd in the final 50m and almost catching the slowing Nakaayi, who had finished in 15.08.
Said the winner, “On the homestraight, I was still feeling strong, so I still could push, I knew everything could happen.” She added: “When I went to the African Games [in August] I was in good shape, but I got bronze because I still made mistakes, so we reviewed the mistakes and I kept on focussing higher and higher.”

For Rogers, it was a successful and satisfying return to the track where she had finished 5th at the Doha DL. “Running on the same track in May helped me to test the waters and learn some things about running here,” she said. “I was able to carry that experience into this week. Also, going through the rounds helped me work out how I wanted to form my race, and that certainly helped contribute to my last 150.” Wilson was left to reflect on her second successive bronze: “The first quarter went to plan. I felt good through 500 and picked it up with 250 to go. But In the last 50 or 60m that was all I had. It was just about trying to make it to the line.”

Inevitably, the absence of Semenya was asked about and drew mixed reactions. “I feel it hasn’t directly affected me… my focus was on trying to make my way to the top and getting as close as I can. It’s not as if I was able to run as fast as Caster,” commented Rogers. The winner, however, knew that she had profited from the South African’s not being on the start line: “I always believe in change. Once the change was made, I just focused on my race and the competitors here. I can’t think about Caster and the others.”

The third American in the final, Ce’Aira Brown, making the most of her late entry following Wilson’s Wild Card for her overall DL win, finished 8th in 2:02.97 but USATF runner-up Hanna Green could not progress beyond the heats after injuring a hamstring a few days earlier.



(September 30) (temperature 81F/27C; humidity 76%)

1. Halimah Nakaayi (Uga) 1:58.04 NR

(27.46, 30.77 [58.23], 30.00 [1:28.23] 29.81) (58.23/59.81) (15.08, 29.81, 59.81);

2. Raevyn Rogers (US) 1:58.18

(27.22, 31.83 [59.05], 30.40 [1:29.45], 28.73) (59.05/59.13) (14.87, 27.22, 59.05);

3. Ajee’ Wilson (US) 1:58.84

(26.94, 31.02 [57.96], 30.18 [1:28.14], 30.70) (57.96/60.88) (15.06, 30.70, 60.88);

4. Winnie Nanyondo (Uga) 1:59.18


5. Eunice Sum (Ken) 1:59.71


6. Natoya Goule (Jam) 2:00.11


7. Rabab Arrafi (Mor) 2:00.48


8. Ce’Aira Brown (US) 2:02.97



(September 27)

I–1. Wilson 2:02.10; 2. Nakaayi 2:02.33; 3. Hedda Hynne (Nor) 2:02.49;

4. Christina Hering (Ger) 2:03.15; 5. Sara Kuivisto (Fin) 2:03.15; 6. Renée Eykens (Bel) 2:03.65; 7. Gabriela Gajanová (Svk) 2:04.45.

II–1. Rogers 2:02.01; 2. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (GB) 2:02.09; 3. Morgan Mitchell (Aus) 2:02.13; 4. Sum 2:02.17; 5. Anna Sabat (Pol) 2:02.43;

6. Selina Büchel (Swi) 2:03.38; 7. Rose Nathike Lokonyen (SSD) 2:13.39 NR.

III–1. Nanyondo 2:00.36; 2. Katharina Trost (Ger) 2:01.45; 3. Halima Hachlaf (Mor) 2:01.50; 4. Lindsey Butterworth (Can) 2:01.64;

5. Līga Velvere (Lat) 2:02.93; 6. Catriona Bissett (Aus) 2:05.33.

IV–1. Goule 2:01.01; 2. Brown 2:01.14; 3. Noélie Yarigo (Ben) 2:01.19; 4. Olha Lyakhova (Ukr) 2:01.47; 5. Diribe Welteji (Eth) 2:02.71;

6. Diana Mezuliáníková (CzR) 2:03.48; 7. Déborah Rodríguez (Uru) 2:03.80.

V–1. Nataliya Pryshchepa (Ukr) 2:03.22; 2. Chunyu Wang (Chn) 2:03.25; 3. Alexandra Bell (GB) 2:03.34;

4. Lore Hoffmann (Swi) 2:03.40; 5. Malika Akkaoui (Mor) 2:03.40; 6. Lovisa Lindh (Swe) 2:03.72; 7. Hanna Green (US) 2:04.37.

VI–1. Renelle Lamote (Fra) 2:03.36; 2. Rose M. Almanza (Cub) 2:03.42; 3. Arrafi 2:03.44;

4. Lynsey Sharp (GB) 2:03.57; 5. Carley Thomas (Aus) 2:04.65; 6. Eleonora Vandi (Ita) 2:04.98;… dq—Tsepang Sello (Les).


(September 28)

I–1. Rogers 1:59.57; 2. Nanyondo 1:59.75;

3. Lyakhova 2:00.72; 4. Butterworth 2:00.74; 5. Bell 2:01.23; 6. Hachlaf 2:01.30; 7. Trost 2:01.77; 8. Velvere 2:06.99.

II–1. Wilson 2:00.31; 2. Arrafi 2:00.80;

3. Hynne 2:01.03; 4. Rose M. Almanza 2:01.18; 5. Pryshchepa 2:01.24; 6. Welteji 2:02.69; 7. Wang 2:02.84; 8. Oskan-Clarke 2:10.89.

III–1. Nakaayi 1:59.35; 2. Sum 2:00.10; 3. Brown 2:00.12; 4. Goule 2:00.33;

5. Yarigo 2:00.75; 6. Lamote 2:02.86; 7. Sabat 2:04.00; 8. Mitchell 2:04.76. ◻︎