A vividly exuberant Mary Moraa held off attacks from Keely Hodgkinson and Athing Mu to claim her first global gold in the women’s 800m on the final day of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.
Britain’s Hodgkinson managed to beat USA’s Mu, who had pipped her to Olympic and world titles in the past two years, but this time both finished behind Kenya’s Moraa, who ran the race of her life and then skipped over the line to win in a personal best of 1:56.03.
Mu, who before these championships had raced just once over this distance since winning gold in Oregon last year ahead of Hodgkinson and Moraa, led at the bell and into the finishing straight.
But as the trio pressed for the line, the US star came under pressure from both sides as her fellow 21-year-old Hodgkinson, so set on ending her run of victories, challenged on the inside, while Moraa, who beat the Briton to Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham last year, charged on the outside.
Something had to give, and in the end it wasn’t the mercurial 23-year-old Kenyan, who greeted her victory by jumping and veering like a freed colt, her ponytail jolting behind her like a mane, before getting down to the serious business of dancing.
Hodgkinson, calm and controlled as ever, earned a significant silver in 1:56.34, with the enigmatic Mu having to settle for a medal of unfamiliar colour as she took third place in 1:56.61.
It was a season’s best for her; but then she only had one time to beat.
The manner in which Moraa beat Britain’s newly established world silver medallist on her home soil in Birmingham last year was uniquely random – the Kenyan began at the front and went all the way to the back again before reversing the effect and coming through for unexpected and unheralded gold.
Here, however, she ran an exemplary race, staying within range of Mu throughout before striking for home halfway down the finishing straight as the US runner, who had done very well to qualify after nearly being knocked off her feet by a falling runner in her semifinal, failed to find anything extra when she most needed it.
For Hodgkinson, whose transit from top class junior to top class senior in Tokyo was so swift and impressive, the occasion was bittersweet. One rival vanquished; another not.
While the focus was on this hugely talented trio, the rest of the field produced results of the highest quality as all eight finished inside two minutes.
Mu’s compatriot Raevyn Rogers, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist, finished fourth in a season’s best of 1:57.45, one place ahead of the Briton who was fourth in Tokyo, Jemma Reekie, who put herself in a good position to win without finding the means to make it happen, coming home in 1:57.72.
In what was a super-swift final, Mu’s other teammate Nia Akins was sixth in a personal best of 1:57.73, with Jamaica’s Adelle Tracey seventh in 1:58.41, also a personal best, and the Doha 2019 world champion Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda eighth in 1:59.18.
|WOMEN’S 800m MEDALLISTS
|Mary Moraa 🇰🇪 KEN
|Keely Hodgkinson 🇬🇧 GBR
|Athing Mu 🇺🇸 USA
Credit: World Athletics