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July 31, 2017

Rapid Reaction: What Rudisha’s withdrawal means for the World Champs 800m

On Monday morning, two-time Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha announced on Twitter that he would not be racing at the IAAF World Championships in London.

With Rudisha out, none of the Olympic medalists from Rio will be toeing the line next week in London. (h/t Nick Zaccardi for the factoid)

What does this mean for the men’s 800 meter field at Worlds? It short terms, it means things are WIDE OPEN.

If I had to name the race favorites, it would be between two men — Nijel Amos and Emmanuel Korir.

Amos is the more experienced of the two, having won Olympic silver at the age of 18 back in 2012. He’s been up-and-down since, including taking a break from the sport to pursue a career as a DJ, but he’s been solid thus far in 2017, winning Diamond League contests in Paris, London and Rabat. With his season’s best of 1:43.18, Amos currently occupies the world’s second-fastest time of the year.

Korir is the one man who’s run faster this year with the 1:43.10 he recently ran to win in Monaco. Korir had an insane NCAA season for UTEP, including running 1:43.73 at a random meet in Berkeley in April and dropping 44.53 for the open 400 meters. He followed that up with a win a win at the Kenyan Trials and has shown no evidence of slowing down despite the long collegiate season.

The betting markets at Paddy Power have Amos as the slight favorite at 4/5 (you bet $5 to win $4), while Korir is at 6/4 (you bet $4 to win $6).

I’m not making any predictions yet, but I’d lay it out like this — Amos is the safer bet, but Korir has potential to reach a higher ceiling.

The absence of Rudisha likely opens the door to a dark horse medalist and I think Donovan Brazier could fit the part.

After squeaking through the rounds at USA’s, Brazier found himself in a final that played out perfectly for him.

He sat on the shoulder of the leader for the majority of the race, took the lead with 250 meters to go, and kicked hard to hold on to the win.

After nationals, Brazier dipped his toes in international racing and came out with two solid performances — second in London in 1:43.95 and third in Rabat in 1:44.62. Both of those races were similar to USA’s with fast paces where he could turn his brain off and not having to worry too much about tactics.

If he can manage to get out of the rounds, which given his track record isn’t a given, and the race plays out in a manner that fits his strengths, I can see the young Brazier leaving London with a medal around his neck.

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