2008 World Indoor Champs: 800m Notes & Numbers Review

Story by Eric.

Three days of hurried pace, ups and downs and spectacular athletics performances have now left an emptiness in Valencia which the Qatari capital city of Doha hopes to fill when it plays host to the 13th edition in 2010.

Now that athletes have taken their final dives at the tape, picked their feet out of the sand boxes, spun one final time on a circular concrete slab and both jumped up to and over bars with their feet and with the use of fiberglass poles, one is left to ponder exactly what took place during a packed week-end of activities which provided one world record and drew the curtain on several athletes' careers.

Yelena Soboleva earned headlines on the final day of competition with her spectacular world record run on Sunday, reaching the tape in the 1.500m in 3.57,71 to eclipse her own world indoor record set at the Russian national indoor championships in February.

Moreover, Abubaker Kaki, the surprise 800m find, dispensed of a quality field which set personal bests in all finish spots, running 1.44,81.

There was more than enough drama to fill the tabloids, but were there enough good performances to fill interest in a sport where not all the top atheltes compete - especially in an Olympic year?

The IAAF put together a handy historical blueprint of the previous world indoor championships, one which will be heavily utilised in the analysis below.

The information is not to be taken as a prediction of what is in store for certain athletes, simply as an interesting side-note to understanding how certain athletes have performed against their peers both prior to - and at - the World Championships.

So, let's continue on in the world indoor analysis and compare apples to apples (and oranges), and see what the Men's 800m had to offer at the 2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships compared to previous seasons.

800M RUN

The Men's 800m was one of the most-anticipated events of the three-day, three-round week-end, and the final did not disappoint with Eighteen-year-old Abubaker Kaki, a former Sudanese goalie in a local league, blasting South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi - 2004 World indoor titlist and 2006 World Indoor Championships silver medalist - 1.44,81 to 1.44,91 in a tantalizing display of youth mixed with the splendid poise of a veteran.
  • Kaki tripled his lifetime total of indoor races in Valencia, and did not leave fans or his competitors in want, leading each of the six athletes in the final to personal bests.
  • Kaki lowered the Sudanese record from 1.48,69 to 1.46,09 in the first indoor race of his life in Leipzig last month, then demolished his new national record by another 1,28 seconds in only his second 800m final ever contested indoors.
  • Not only had Kaki made a smashing success, he left his opponents helpless by skipping completely through the 1.46 barrier in his victory in Valencia.
  • Kaki tied a precedent with his victory, as no other world indoor champion had ever run fewer lifetime indoor races before earning their first championship.
  • Of the 13 champions, five have won in their first-ever season of indoor running: José Luiz Barbosa (1987), Paul Ereng (1989), Clive Terrelonge (1995), Mulaudzi (2004) and Kaki (2008).
  • Terrelonge is the only World Indoor Champion whose outdoor seasonal best (1.47,30) the year prior to his victory was closest to his winning indoor mark (1.47,35), but he is also the only victor who has never broken 1.45,00 in his career.
  • Terrelonge and Colomán Trabado (1985) are the only two winning athletes who didn't break 1.45,00 in the outdoor season leading up to their global indoor victories, meaning that good pace and excellent judgment also play a key ingredient in successful running.
Indoor running is as much about positioning as it is with pace (see the 400m review blog for more information), although the first to the pole in the four-lap race hasn’t always been the victor.

There are many maneuvers which unfold during the 800m – a race of both speed and endurance, that it becomes nearly impossible to pick a winner simply on best qualifying time or best position when the gun sounds.

That didn’t hold true for Kaki, however, as he did what many of his predecessors were either unwilling – or unable – to do in early March: take a pace out hard, hold it and stave off any challengers. In Kaki’s case, his challengers were all but gone at the 400m mark, with Mulaudzi the only athlete hanging on.
  • Kaki's time is the third-fastest winning time ever run at the World Indoor Championships - trailing on Wilson Kipketer's world-record run in 1997 (1.42,67) and Yuriy Borzakovskiy's world junior-record time of 1.44,49 set in 2001 in Lisbon. Kipketer did run a world record in the 1997 preliminaries, however, stopping the clock at 1.43,96 during the fifth heat - more than four seconds faster than any other first-round heat. Kipketer is the only athlete to ever run under 1.44 and 1.43 - a feat he accomplished on the same week-end!
  • Kaki missed the four-year-old African indoor record set by Kenya's Joseph Mutua in Stuttgart by only 0,10 seconds.
  • Kaki, however, became the youngest gold medalist in the event, topping Borzakovskiy's previous distinction (19 years, 333 days) by well over 14 months. Kaki doesn't have the raw 400m speed that Borzakovskiy does, but it is of note to point out that Borzakovskiy went on to run a lifetime best of 1.42,47 the outdoor season following his World Indoor title.
  • Outdoors, David Krummenacker (1.43,92) was the closest match of all previous champions to Kaki's season best (1.43,90) leading up to the World Indoor Championships.
  • Kaki has excellent company in front of him, and his dream of catching and surpassing Sammy Kosgei's 1.42,28 world junior record would entail passing Borzakovskiy as well.
  • Kaki's winning time most resembles Paul Ereng's 1.44,84, with the precocious yearling 0,03 seconds faster than was Ereng when he won the 1989 championships at age 21. It would not be out of the question to suggest that Kaki may follow a similar pattern to Ereng outdoors as well, as Ereng went on to record a 1.43,16.
  • Ereng was more than a half-second faster than was Kaki in the season prior to their world indoor titles, but Kaki's race was contested as a near solo time-trial, whereas Ereng had the benefit of being towed in a Grand Prix event; it is with near certainty that Kaki would have run faster than 1.43,90 had he been challenged or had the aid of other athletes to follow.
  • Wilson Kipketer sandwiched his world indoor record between a particular exploit no other athlete has ever been able to accomplish in the history of the sport: run 1.41 over 800m in consecutive seasons (1996, 1997).
  • Of the 12 previous races contested before last week-end's final, Paul Ereng is the only athlete who has successfully defended his title.
  • Prior to Kaki's front-running performance, Tom McKean (1993), Kipketer (1997) and Wilfred Bungei (2006) were the only winners who were leading the race at the 400m mark, with Kipketer having the distinction of running the swiftest half-way split (50,22) and fastest final time ever recorded.
  • The only athletes who have managed to break 1.45,00 at the World Indoor Championships have managed to have the pace hit 51,26 or faster at the half-way point.
  • McKean's claim to fame - besides his gold medal - is being the oldest of the 13 800m champions crowned. Bungei was knocked from the all-time top-10 list with Kaki's winning time, and thrust to 12th when Mulaudzi finished a tenth of a second behind.
Below are the previous champions, with the race's official 400m split listed.

The times indicated behind their marks are the previous season's 800m best and their subsequent 800m season's best outdoors following their indoor victories. Their absolute bests are not included, simply the best time they were able to record the year leading up to the world indoor championships.
  • 1985: ..... 53,05/1.47,42 (1.45,15/0.00,00 - Trabado)
  • 1987: ..... 52,71/1.47,49 (1.44,10/1.43,76 - Barbosa)
  • 1989: ..... 50,83/1.44,84 WR (1.43,45/1.43,16 - Ereng)
  • 1991: ..... 54,00/1.47,08 (1.43,70/1.44,06 - Ereng)
  • 1993: ..... 51,59/1.47,29 (1.44,39/1.46,17 - McKean)
  • 1995: ..... 53,40/1.47,30 (1.47,35/1.46,58 - Terrelonge)
  • 1997: ..... 50,22/1.42,67 WR (1.41,83/1.41,11 - Kipketer)
  • 1999: ..... 53,70/1.45,47 (1.44,57/1.43,91 - Botha)
  • 2001: ..... 51,48/1.44,49 (1.44,33/1.42,47 - Borzakovskiy)
  • 2003: ..... 52,93/1.45,69 (1.43,92/1.44,30 - Krummenacker)
  • 2004: ..... 50,74/1.45,71 (1.42,89/1.44,56 - Mulaudzi)
  • 2006: ..... 55,65/1.47,15 (1.43,70/1.43,31 - Bungei)
  • 2008: ..... 51,26/1.44,81 (1.43,90/0.00,00 - Kaki)
Sudan now has a collection of gold, silver and bronze earned at the World Indoor Championships, with Kaki taking the top spot, and Yamilé Aldama earning the bronze in the triple jump in Moscow following her silver in Budapest in 2004.

Sudan has had only one other male competitor in the World Indoor Championships, Ali Abubakr Nagmeldin, a 400m athlete who did not make it out of the first round in Budapest.

Top-10 All-time Performer list (Indoors):

1.42,67 Wilson Kipketer, DEN, 9 Mar 97
1.44,15 Yuriy Borzakovskiy, RUS, 27 Jan 01
1.44,71 Joseph Mutua, KEN, 31 Jan 04
1.44,78 Pawel Czapiewski, POL 3 Mar 02
1.44,81 Abubaker Kaki, SUD 9 Mar 08
1.44,82 Mehdi Baala, FRA, 18 Feb 03
1.44,84 Paul Ereng, KEN, 4 Mar 89
1.44,88 Nico Motchebon, GER, 5 Feb 95
1.44,91 Sebastian Coe, GB, 12 Mar 83
1.44,91 Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, SA, 9 Mar 08

Next review: Men's 3.000m

Foto credits: IAAF.org

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