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August 13th, 2017
London, England

While the 3-round battle for the championship crown in the women’s 800 meters would feature the 3 Olympic medalists, others – including USA’s Ajée Wilson – were seen as medal possibilities.

In the 1st round, defending champion Marina Arzamasova of Belarus was the major casualty. In the first semi, front-running Wilson glided to a stress-free wire-to-wire win in 1:59.21. In the second semi, Caster Semenya’s strength over the final furlong gave her the win in the fastest second round time of 1:58.90 as early-leader Charlene Lipsey was a time qualifier. In the last semi, Rio medalists Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui kicked off an easy pace to snare the Big Q’s with the slower tempo denying 3rd-placer Brenda Martinez an opportunity to advance on time.

In the final, the quick-starting Wilson was denied the pole as Francine Niyonsaba muscled her way to the front. The Olympic silver medalist hit 200 meters in 27.08 with Ajée tucked in 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] 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.

Off the final turn, the South African Olympic champion unleashed an unmatched, powerful drive, 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 her 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 victor. “I have the Olympic, World and Commonwealth titles now so maybe it is time to target the world record. 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,” declared the silver medalist who also paid tribute to the strong field. “In this final, everybody was looking good; all competitors are strong.”
Wilson savored her first senior global outdoor medal. “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. “I tried to speed it up in the last 100 meters. I did my best, pushed it 100 percent.” While just shy of her new American record, her 1:56.65 clocking is nonetheless the #3 all-time American performance. "I feel super-happy. The crowds were electrifying, loud and so supportive. For this, I have to thank God, my coach, my teammates and all the people who were uplifting and supported me.”

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

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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