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Belarusian Captures World Championship w800 Meter Crown

In a wide-open women's 800 meter battle, Belarus's Marina Arzamasova ran her own picture-perfect race and triggered a well-timed kick to capture the World Championship women's 800m title in 1:58.03.

American women – expected to do well in the 800m three-round war of attrition – fared poorly. In the opening round: Alysia Montano fell; Brenda Martinez – the ’13 bronze medalist – got hung-up in late-race traffic and was fortunate to snag the final automatic qualifier in her heat; and Molly Beckwith-Ludlow – replacing the highly-touted Ajee Wilson who couldn’t compete due to a tibia stress reaction – struggled to grab a "little q" to advance on time.

Race intensity increased dramatically in the semi-final. How tough was it? 9 of the 17 semi-finalists who ran sub-2:00 failed to advance. In the last semi, England’s Lynsey Sharp led the field through the first 400 on her way to a 1:59.33 clocking – and finished last. Neither American advanced to the final, nor did Netherland star Sifan Hassan.

With no clear stand-outs emerging from the second round of racing and with speculation rampant about how much the 8 finalists had left after the grueling semi-finals, most found predicting three medalists to be a fool's errand. As the championship race began, defending champion Eunice Sum – who struggled to make the final – led early and paced the field through the first 400 meters in 59.10. After repelling a backstretch threat, Sum hit the 600 meter mark in 1:29.00, just before Arzamasova pushed past the Kenyan to take the lead around the curve.

Entering the last 100m, Arzamasova was driving hard just as Melissa Bishop – the young Canadian and recently-crowned Pan American Games 800m champion – began a spirited run for the line. Her homestretch charge powered her to the finish in 1:58.12 – allowing her to catch Sum [1:58.18], but not the 27-year old Belarusian who stopped the clock at 1:58.03 to capture the 800m crown. All eight finalists broke two minutes.

Afterwards, Sum spoke frankly about her unwanted role as the reluctant pacesetter. "I normally do so,” replied the defending champion when asked about her leading. “But in the last year I found I wasn't really good enough to lead the length [of the race.]” A jubilant Bishop was thrilled with her performance. “There's an eternity there to bang it out with these girls at the world championships. It's about staying calm and relaxed and doing what I know I can do. You live and you learn and now I have the silver medal around my neck." Arzamasova – the effusive victor – was happy to explain how she won. "The first 400 meters was really slow and I knew we had to make a faster finish. There wasn't anyone who tried. I just run and wasn't thinking about anything.” Added the new champion: “I have a lot of power and a lot of speed.". None of the other finalists would likely disagree.

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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