Kenya’s Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir ran a textbook tactical race to win the world 800 metres title on Saturday as he peaked at just the right time after a wretched season.
Korir arrived in Eugene with barely a race to his name but ran himself into form through the rounds.
In Saturday’s final he sat near the back of the tightly-bunched pack for 600m before putting his foot down, sweeping past most of them on the bend then overhauling fading leader Marco Arop on the home straight.
He won in one minute, 43.71, with Algerian Djamel Sedjati producing a storming finish of his own to take a surprise silver in 1:44.14 ahead of Canada’s Arop (1:44.28).
“I was expecting a faster race, but I won and I am very happy,” said Korir. “I knew there were some guys close behind me in the last 100m. I was expecting someone to come, but no one did.
“It’s been a long wait. I failed in 2017 and 2019 but I’ve made it now,” added Korir, who failed to get past the semi-finals in the last two worlds.
Arop ran a brave race, hitting the front early and stretching the field, and said his bronze felt like redemption after failing to reach the Olympic final when fancied for a medal.
“It rights some of the wrongs from last year – I feel I had to take a step back to take two steps forward,” he said.
“Last year was a big learning lesson and I am glad I was able to come back from that. I knew if I left it to the last 150m I would have had some trouble closing. I tried to make my move early and take some people out of the race.
“Korir was strong enough to come back. Both medallists are strong finishers so I had to make sure I held some other runners and I think I gave it my all.
“Unfortunately, it was not enough to win gold, but good enough to win come back with a medal.”
Korir’s win took Kenya’s gold medal tally in the event to seven, though this was their first since 2015.
Wyclife Kinyamal, the second-fastest in the world this year behind injured British absentee Max Burgin, finished last, with the third Kenyan finalist, 17-year-old Emmanuel Wanyonyi, fourth.
“My time is not now but it will come,” he said. “But I am so happy for Korir winning and bringing gold to Kenya.”