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Previews15 Mar 2022

Men's 800m looks to be wide open in Belgrade


Elliot Giles in action at the World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Getty Images)

There are few, if any, events less predictable than the men’s 800m right now, and that’s exemplified by the lack of a clear favourite in the four-lap event at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.

For the first time since 2017, the indoor season has (almost) passed by without any athlete breaking 1:45, though there are seven men in the field in Belgrade who have broken 1:46 this year. Any one of them, in addition to a cluster of others, could walk away with gold.

Perhaps the best place to start in search of a potential champion is with Britain’s Elliot Giles, who took victory on the World Athletics Indoor Tour after winning in Madrid earlier this month in 1:45.43. Giles is the only athlete in the field to have run below 1:44 indoors, but despite his obvious class he has yet to win a global medal, finishing fourth at the last edition of this championships in 2018.

“I know I’m strong and if I get to the final, I know I can hold my position,” he said after that race in Madrid, where he edged Mariano Garcia to victory. 24-year-old Spaniard Garcia is another who’s sure to be in contention again in Belgrade.

He’s the quickest in the field this year with the 1:45.12 national record he ran to win on Staten Island, USA, last month, though he was beaten at the Spanish Championships by Alvaro de Arriba, an astute indoor racer who will look to add the world indoor title to the European indoor gold he won in 2019.

Kenya won gold and silver in the men’s 800m at the Tokyo Olympics but with neither athlete present in Belgrade, their hopes rest on Collins Kipruto and Noah Kibet. Kipruto is the quicker of them this year, clocking 1:45.39 to defeat Giles in Birmingham, but Kibet scored a big win in Lievin last month and could also be dangerous.

The US could also have two medal contenders if their duo successfully navigates Friday’s heats, which is notoriously no easy task. Bryce Hoppel looks the strongest of them, the 2019 indoor and outdoor NCAA champion – who was fourth in the world final in 2019 – ultra impressive when winning the US indoor title in 1:45.30 last month. Runner-up there was Isaiah Harris, who booked his place in Belgrade with a season’s best of 1:46.30.

Sweden’s Andreas Kramer has turned in strong runs on the circuit this season, most notably his runner-up finish in Torun in 1:45.71, while Eliott Crestan set a Belgian indoor record recently with 1:46.11 to win his national title and he could also feature.

Morocco’s Mostafa Smaili has made the past two world indoor finals and he could make it a triple here, while Canada’s Marco Arop, Ireland’s Mark English, and Tony van Diepen of the Netherlands are all dangerous on their day, as is Bosnia and Herzogovina’s Amel Tuka, who was well below his best when clocking 1:47.68 in Torun last month.

Algeria’s Djamel Sejati could also feature, having won all three races he’s contested this year, most recently with an indoor PB of 1:46.28 in Sabadell, Spain.

With the field set to be reduced to just six on Friday evening, there’s every chance that potential champions will fall at the first hurdle, which will make the heats as riveting as the final itself. Once that final six is set, it’s just about anyone’s guess who goes home with gold.

Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics