Donavan Brazier wins the 800m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
Twenty-two year old Donavan Brazier earned his first major 800m medal tonight, and a time of 1:42.34 – breaking the 32-year-old Championship and 34-year-old United States records – ensured it would be golden. He also became the first US 800m runner – male or female - to win the world title.
After the field had reached the bell in 48.96, led through by Puerto Rico’s habitual front-runner Wesley Vazquez, Brazier moved decisively to the front halfway down the back straight and simply maintained his form all the way to the line to confirm his status as favourite in the event.
His time bettered his previous best of 1:42.70, set in winning the Diamond League title in Zurich on 29 August, and also eclipsed the Championship mark of 1.43.06 set by Kenya’s Billy Konchellah at the 1987 version of this event in Rome, and Johnny Gray’s US record of 1:42.60 set at Koblenz in 1985.
As Brazier drove inexorably for the line, Vazquez finally paid for his sustained enterprise and slipped back to fifth place in a time of 1:44.48.
Amel Tuka, that arch-finisher from Bosnia and Hercegovina accelerated through to claim silver in a season’s best of 1:43.47.
Bronze went to another cannier finisher in the form of Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich, who clocked 1:43.82.
“Wesley’s racing style made for a perfect world championship 800m race,” Brazier said. “The plan was always to take it on with 300m to go and go from there, no matter what the pace was. I have been listening to my coach (Pete Julian) this entire season. He’s been a great coach to me and I didn’t want to let him down in this last race of the season.
“I’ve said all season that my goal was to get the gold here and break this record, and that’s what I did. It means the world to me. To be world champion at 22-years-old – I can’t believe it.
“To be the first from the US to win a world championship 800m title feels wonderful. I hope I get some love for it back home!”
A personal best of 1:44.25 earned Brazier’s compatriot Bryce Hoppel fourth place, but there was disappointment for the third American in the field, Clayton Murphy, who was eighth and last in 1:47.84.
Tuka was a happy man after adding a world silver to the world bronze he won four years ago in Beijing.
“I have had some hard times, some health problems in the past, and I am glad I managed to overcome it. Finally I come back. I have trained very hard this season. I came here to win a medal and did it – my second big medal after Beijing 2015.
“I also live in Italy where I train and it is not easy for the family. So this moment is very emotional for me.”
Vazquez reflected ruefully: “I ran the first lap too fast, at world record pace. I kept going but the pace took a toll on me with 220 metres to go. I did not feel as strong as I did in the semi-finals. If I had run a smarter race I would have been in a better position for a medal. But I am proud to be top five in the world.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF