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Semenya_CasterFV-London17.jpGCaster Semenya wins the 800 meters, Francine Niyonsaba, silver and Ajée Wilson, photo by PhotoRun.net

USA's Ajée Wilson Grabs Bronze

 August 13th, 2017

London, England

Prior the final of the women's 800 meters, a good number of track & field aficionados reflected on the near-perfect form-chart progression from the initial field of 45 to the 8 finalists still standing. True, Belarus's defending champion Marina Arzamasova failed to advance beyond the first round. But an analysis of the 37 who failed to make it this far revealed very few other unexpected casualties. For many, the final field had shaped up just as they had hoped: the 3 polished Rio finalists versus the rapidly-improving American training partners: Ajée Wilson and Charlene Lipsey.

As the final got underway, the quick-starting Wilson found competition for the pole as Francine Niyonsaba muscled her way to the front. The Olympic silver medalist flew by 200 meters in 27.08 with Ajée tucked in closely behind. The Burundi athlete took the bell in 57.98, followed by Wilson [58.12], and Kenya's Margaret Wambui [58.36]. World leader Caster Semenya [58.53] - the reigning Olympic 800m champion - lingered in 6th. On the backstretch, Wilson - who just weeks earlier had set the new American 800 meter record of 1:55.61 - made a spirited move for the lead which Niyonsaba repelled. Passing 600 meters in 1:27.07, Niyonsaba maintained a slim margin over Wilson, but Semenya was quickly closing on the pair.

Swinging wide off the final turn, the South African Olympic champion unleashed a powerful drive down the homestretch, crossing first in a world-leading 1:55.16. In a stunning display of strength, Semenya - who had scored bronze in the women's 1500 meter final earlier in the meet - posted negative splits, running the final circuit in 56.63 in this his 6th race of these championships. As she did in Rio, Niyonsaba [1:55.92] closed effectively to snatch the silver, while Wilson [1:56.65] took the bronze. Wambui [1:57.54] and Lipsey [1:58.73] finished 4th and 6th as all 8 finalists dipped under 1:59.

"Another world title is a fantastic honor for me," said the Semenya afterwards. "I love to do it here in London. The crowds are so welcoming to me and it makes it feel even more special." The world champion took no time to identify a new challenge. "I have the Olympic, World and Commonwealth titles now so maybe it is time to target the world record. It's the next thing on the list. I know it will be difficult but I will have to attempt soon, maybe." Runner-up Niyonsaba was pleased to once again make the podium. "I am very, very happy. This medal is for all Burundians and they are happy now. I am the best runner of Burundi," declared the silver medalist who also paid tribute to the strong field in its entirety. "In this final, everybody was looking good; all competitors are strong. So I got off there as fast as possible to make it a fast race."

Bronze medalist Ajée Wilson was elated to win her first global outdoor medal as a senior athlete. "I did not expect the podium, I was ready to fight, attack the top three, and see what happens. Against this strong field, I tried to focus on my own race," explained the 23-year-old American middle distance specialist. "I tried to speed it up in the last 100 meters, no matter if I came out short of a medal. I did my best, pushed it 100 percent." While Ajée's time was shy of her new recent American record mark, her 1:56.65 championship clocking is nonetheless the #3 all-time American performance at this distance. Wilson's joy was clearly evident. "I feel super-happy; the crowd was super-awesome and super-special tonight. The crowds were electrifying, loud and so supportive. I am not sure about my next schedule yet, I just look forward to going home tomorrow. For this, I have to thank God, my coach, my teammates and all the people who were uplifting and supported me on this way."

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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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