Ajee Wilson celebrates her world indoor 800m win in Belgrade (© Getty Images)
This time Ajee Wilson didn’t have to settle for a silver lining.
Beaten to the world indoor 800m title on home ground in Portland in 2016 and in Birmingham in 2018, the 27-year-old from the United States finally found a Midas touch on the closing night of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.
She did so with a vengeance, putting the hammer down at the bell and destroying her rivals with a 29.19 final circuit of the Stark Arena.
Sweeping into the lead with a devastating burst of acceleration, Wilson surged relentlessly clear, crossing the line with a 1.45 cushion in 1:59.09.
It was a perfectly timed effort, rendering Freweyni Hailu’s late charge from the back of the field worthy of only silver.
Fourth in the Olympic 1500m final last year, the Ethiopian passed three rivals in the home straight to finish a well-beaten runner up in 2:00.54.
"It feels amazing to finally come home with the gold after coming so close so many times," said Wilson.
"I've been working on that last phase of the race and I knew if I was close I had a good chance of running away with it and when I went I wanted to make sure it was convincing and power through the line."
Uganda’s world outdoor champion Halimah Nakaayi took bronze in 2:00.66, with early leader Natoya Goule of Jamaica fourth in 2:01.18 and Australian Catriona Bisset fifth in 2:01.24.
“Maybe my reaction was too slow and that cost me the gold medal,” said Nakaayi, reflecting on Wilson’s decisive break.
“Right now I am glad for a medal despite the fact that my tactics were prepared to win gold.”
Having missed the qualifying cut for the Olympic final last year, Wilson’s consummately executed victory was all the sweeter.
The world U18 champion in Lille in 2011 and world U20 winner in Barcelona the following year, the native of Neptune, New Jersey, has finally made it to global gold standard at senior medal.
Bronze medallist at the outdoor world championships in London in 2017 and in Doha in 2019, she will be looking for something better at the World Athletics Championships Eugene22 – when world leader Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain, who withdrew injured before the heats on Saturday, and US Olympic champion Athing Mu will be back in the mix.
Simon Turnbull for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 800m MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Ajee Wilson 🇺🇸 USA||1:59.09 SB|
|🥈||Freweyni Hailu 🇪🇹 ETH||2:00.54 SB|
|🥉||Halimah Nakaayi 🇺🇬 UGA||2:00.66|