The American was passed by Ethiopian Mohammed Aman with 20 meters to go.
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MOSCOW — Using the fast early pace of Duane Solomon to full advantage, Mohammed Aman showed a potent combination of keen racing tactics and overwhelming closing speed in winning the first ever IAAF World Championships gold medal at 800m for Ethiopia at Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday night. His time of 1:43.31 was the fastest ever run on Russian soil.
Aman, officially just 19, ran right on Solomon’s heels as the American champion blasted through the opening 200 meters in 23.58 seconds.
“That was ridiculous,” Solomon admitted later.
Solomon’s teammate, Nick Symmonds, who was back in sixth position, began to move up as the race come down the homestretch for the first time. By the time Solomon hit 400 meters in 50:28, Symmonds was on Solomon’s right shoulder. The pair were followed closely by Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse on the inside and Aman to his right. Surprisingly, the race was not strung out despite the fast pace.
“I could tell it was a hot pace but it was still very crowded,” Symmonds explained. “I wanted to be as close to Duane as possible. I keyed off him the entire race.”
Down the backstretch, Solomon was still carrying the pace with Symmonds and Bosse close behind and Aman in fourth. Solomon hit the 600-meter mark in 1:16:73 with Symmonds and Aman in hot pursuit. As they came around the final bend, Aman was still in contention but was boxed-in behind Symmonds and Solomon. The Ethiopian didn’t panic.
“Aman’s tough,” Symmonds observed. “He finds a way to get to that line.”
Symmonds surged down the homestretch and got half a step on his teammate. In doing so, he let Aman out of the box, and the Ethiopian moved to his right and began to sprint furiously. Inside of 20 meters to go, Aman passed Symmonds and the gold was his.
“I think the best tactics won the race,” Solomon said, and Aman didn’t disagree.
“I used some tactics,” Aman said in English with a grin. “I have speed in the last (meters). It’s a world championships, so you have to be smart and do something for your country.”
Symmonds was a clear second in 1:43.55, winning his first global medal and the first men’s 800m medal for the United States at a World Championships since Rich Kenah got the bronze in 1997.
“With 100 to go I flipped that switch like I did (recently) in Edmonton, like I did in London,” Symmonds said. “And, at 750, I pretty much thought I was going to be the next world champion. I feel like I really raced for gold tonight. I wasn’t content to sit in the back and hang on for dear life for bronze or silver. I raced for gold, and there’s no shame in finishing second.”
Solomon, who later said he had nothing left in his legs at that point, saw Djibuti’s Ayanleh Souleiman go by him and get the bronze in 1:43.76, but also Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski and Britain’s Andrew Osagie, leaving the former USC Trojan to finish sixth.
“I didn’t race smart today,” said Solomon, who finished fourth at the London Olympics last year. In that race Kenya’s David Rudisha got the gold medal in world record time, and Botswana’s Nijel Amos got the silver in a world junior record. Neither man competed here in Moscow due to injuries.
Simpson, Cain Advance To 1500, Final
In the women’s 1,500m semifinals, defending world champion Jenny Simpson advanced without difficulty, finishing third in the second of two heats in 4:05.79 behind the women who will likely be her biggest rivals for the gold medal, Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi (4:05.66) and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri (4:05.76). Her heat started slowly, 2:15.76 through 800m, but Simpson was strong in the final sprint when it counted.
“It was everything I asked for,” said Simpson, pointing out that she felt comfortable running behind Aregawi and Obiri. “If you have to be behind somebody, be behind them.”
Simpson’s 17 year-old teammate, Mary Cain, also moved on to the final in the first heat by turning a 62.7 second final lap. In a group sprint, she dipped at the line to finish fourth in 4:05.21.
“So, fourth, I’ll take it any day at the world championships semifinal,” Cain told an IAAF interviewer in the mixed zone. “Hopefully I’ll do the same thing in the final.”
Also advancing was England’s Hannah England who got the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot in the second heat. She was the silver medalist at these championships in Daegu two years ago.
Chemos Gets Steeple Gold
Kenya’s Milcah Chemos, who won the bronze medal at these championships in 2009 and 2011, finally moved up to the top step of the medal stand. In a race which immediately became a team competition between Ethiopia and Kenya, Chemos led most of the race to win in 9:11.65, a world-leading time.
“From the second kilometer I knew that no one was going to go with me during the last lap,” said the tiny athlete who hurdles barriers with her feet together and to the side. “I’m feeling so good to win my first world title.”
Second went to her teammate, Lydia Chepkurui, in 9:12.55, a personal best, while Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa made a valiant second effort to get bronze after falling over a barrier late in the race. On the final lap, Assefa caught her teammate Hiwot Ayalew at the water jump, passed her, and sprinted home for the bronze in 9:12.84.
“I am very happy with the medal, it is my first medal at the World Championships,” she told IAAF interviewers.