Time and Date of Men’s 800m Final: 22:25 BRT (15 AUG) / 03:25 CEST (16 AUG)
Defending Olympic Champion from London 2012: David Rudisha
The 800m is always one of the toughest events to predict because there are just so many variables that can influence the final result and standings. If you could assemble a single field of athletes and have them run 10 races in a row, chances are you would see a different winner almost every time. Therefore it is not surprising that we haven’t seen a successful Olympic title defense since 1952. You cannot win at 800m without having a clear game plan in mind.
Here are some of the athletes that I’ll be observing and that I think have the best chance of reaching the final.
Honorable mention: Žan Rudolf (Slovenia). I’ll obviously be rooting for him because he’s my fellow countryman. He’s a national record holder with 1:46.00 and has a season’s best of 1:46.98, so his realistic goal should be making the semi-finals, everything after that is just a bonus. He has an unfortunate tendency of getting crowded on the inside and then having to work his way around other athletes, but he has good leg speed and can kick strongly in the last 200m. He does lack some finishing strength if the first lap is too fast though. He will need some luck to get out of the heats, but I think he can do it.
Marcin Lewandowski (Poland). A wonderfully fluid athlete that’s a joy to watch. He just missed the final in 2012, so I think he’ll give it his best to make it this time. His season’s best is 1:44.59 which proves he’s on the right track. Not a clear medal favourite, but don’t count him out of the contention.
Clayton Murphy & Boris Berian (USA). The fastest American of 2016 is a 19-year old junior Donovan Brazier, but unfortunately he was eliminated in the heats of American Olympic Trials, so he won’t compete in Rio. Murphy and Berian aren’t immediately recognizable names on the world stage, but they definitely have the speed to spring a surprise at the Olympics. I wouldn’t count them out of being in the final.
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse (France). A very talented youngster that’s been running extremely fast times for a couple of seasons in a row now. He’s a regular participant at the biggest meets, so – despite being only 24 – it seems like he’s been around for a very long time. He’s been in the final of every major Championship since 2012, but he seems to struggle with coming up with a good racing strategy once he gets there. I expect he’ll make the final in Rio, but what he can do afterwards is anyone’s guess. He has a long stride and is a strong finisher, so watch out for him.
Taoufik Makhloufi (Algeria). The surprise 2012 Olympic Champion at 1500m will double up in Rio and will run both the 1500m and 800m events. I personally don’t like him for a variety of reasons, but he’s a great competitor and with the 7th fastest time in the world this year he’ll undeniably be fancying a spot in the final. He has great speed and endurance, so I’ll be watching him with interest.
Amel Tuka (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The Bosnian unexpectedly exploded onto the scene last year by running a world leading time of 1:42.51 which made him the 11th fastest man in history. He went on to win bronze at the 2015 World Championships, proving his worth against the best. This year he doesn’t seem to be on quite the same level as last year, but he’ll definitely be a threat in Rio.
Nijel Amos (Botswana). The 22 year old will be trying to improve on his incredible run from London four years ago that won him the silver medal and made him the joint third fastest man in history with a time of 1:41.73. His running form is very raw, especially under fatigue, but don’t be deceived. He’s an incredible finisher and he regularly manages to find that extra gear in the last 200m. If he finds his best form in Rio, he’ll be a big favourite to win one of the medals.
Ferguson Rotich (Kenya). The Kenyans are always strong in the 800m and Rotich might be thinking that it’s his time to shine. He’s been 4th in the last year’s Beijing World final and he’ll probably be going to Rio with a lot to prove. He’s been running fast this season and I firmly believe that he’ll be one of the danger men in the final.
Adam Kszczot (Poland). One of the very best tacticians in the world. A European Champion in 2014 and 2016 and only beaten by Rudisha at the 2015 World Championships. He has great speed and immense finishing strength. He’s in great shape this season and I expect him to at least make the final in Rio. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he wins another global medal.
Mohammed Aman (Ethiopia). Already a world champion from 2013 (in the absence of Rudisha). He was unfairly disqualified from last year’s World Championship semi-final, so I bet he’ll be extra hungry to prove himself in Rio. He’s a smart racer and has a very strong finish, so I think he’ll be one of the main candidates for gold if he reaches the final. It should be well within his reach. But he’ll have to run much faster than his current season’s best of 1:44.70 if he wants to win a medal.
David Rudisha (Kenya). Defending world and Olympic champion and a world record holder. His only weakness is his poor finishing speed, so if he hopes to defend his title, he’ll probably have to do it by leading from the gun. Not an impossible task, especially for him, but he’ll probably have to be in 1:42 shape to pull it off. The good thing for him is that he’s the world leader in 2016 with 1:43.35 and – judging by his runs this year – I think he’s fully prepared to win another gold. He’s my pick to win it.