Mariya Savinova of Russia crosses the finish line to claim victory in the women's 800 metres final (© Getty Images)
London 2012 Olympic Games champion Mariya Savinova will aim to maintain her stranglehold of global 800m championship competition by securing back-to-back world titles in front of her adoring home supporters in Moscow.
The 27-year-old has played a curious tactical hand this outdoor season by competing just twice. On both occasions she claimed routine victories in domestic competition and Savinova will hope this approach will pay dividends inside what is expected to be a vociferous Luzhniki Stadium.
The 2007 World champion Janeth Jepkosgei will, as ever, pose a strong threat.
The 29-year-old Kenyan has claimed the full set of medals at the past three editions: she won silver and bronze in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Should she climb the podium again in the Russian capital she will match the accomplishments of Mozambique’s Maria Mutola who won four successive World Championships medals in this event from 1997-2003.
The USA has enjoyed a middle-distance running resurgence over the past few seasons and this is also reflected with improving standards in the women’s 800m.
Leading their charge in the Russian capital is their five-time national champion Alysia Johnson Montano, who has been close to medals in the recent seasons. She placed fourth at the 2011 World Championships and one place lower in the London final.
In 2013, Montano has a season’s best of 1:57.75 to suggest she could be in the mix again.
Her countrywoman Brenda Martinez, with a best of 1:58.18, has also taken a giant stride forward this season as evidenced by her impressive victory in her final pre-Moscow outing in London and she too has genuine medal claims.
The three-strong US assault is completed by 2012 World Junior Championships gold medallist Ajee Wilson, who is still only 19.
Morocco’s two-time African Championships bronze medallist Malika Akkaoui, who advanced her personal best by more than a second with 1:57.64 for second place in Paris, must also be viewed as a contender. Her countrywoman Halima Hachlaf, a 2012 Olympic Games semi-finalist, is also entered.
Beefing up the powerful Russian challenge led by Savinova are Olympic bronze medallist Ekaterina Poistogova, 2013 European Athletics Indoor Championships silver medallist and this year’s national champion Elena Kotulskaya as well as Marina Pospelova.
Kazakhstan’s recent World University Games champion Margarita Mukasheva is another to watch out for, so too is Ukraine’s European indoor 800m champion Natalya Lupu.
Great Britain's 18-year-old prodigy Jessica Judd, who claimed a memorable Diamond League victory in Birmingham in June, and Canadian champion Melissa Bishop are two runners to watch out for, although their ambitions may just stretch to making the final.
Other athletes not to be completely discounted in a highly competitive field are Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso, a 1:57 performer at her best, and the 2012 African Championships silver medallist Eunice Sum.
Sadly, Burundi’s 2013 list leader Francine Niyonsaba, an impressive winner at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Shanghai, Eugene and Paris, suffered a hamstring injury on Monday and is ruled out of the championships.
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Steve Landells for the IAAF