Mens 800m final
What had been shaping up to be "the" final of these Games, with any one of five men capable of winning gold, turned out to be a thriller, even if Nils Schumann's winning time of 1:45.08 was the slowest since the 1980 Olympics.
Once again, the 22 year-old German, who has now won four major golds in three years, showed his racing instincts are keenest when the pressure is fiercest. He was helped by the fact that none of his rivals was willing to push the pace into the 1:43 - 1:42 zone, to try and hurt the German whose personal best is 1:44.22 (set in the semi-finals). But although his best was the third slowest on paper, Schumann proved that there is a world of difference between times achieved on the Grand Prix circuit and the rough, tough world of championship racing. At the finish, less than 2/10ths of a second separated Schumann from fourth place finisher Hezekiel Sepeng but the Olympic title was his. In the 104 history of the Games, he becomes the first German to win 800m gold.
The race's character was decided in the first lap, when the world record holder Wilson Kipketer made the tactical error of not forcing the pace, instead hanging at the back of the pack. In Seville last year, this plan had paid off - just - when he prevailed in a dip finish with Sepeng. But tonight, he left his final sprint too late, and forced out into lane 4, could not catch Schumann, even if he did go from sixth to second in the last 100 metres. Andre Bucher (SUI) and Andrea Longo (ITA) - two other European hopes - had taken the pack to the bell in 51.65, but at that speed all the leading contenders were virtually shoulder to shoulder. With about 250 metres to go it seemed as if the 19 year-old Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy - who had run a spectacular 1:44.22 personal best two nights ago - might spring a surprise, but his kick was not decisive and he faded to sixth with 1:45.83. Halfway round the final bend, with the group still tightly bunched, Longo collided with Bucher, forcing the Swiss athlete to take two steps on the infield, with both losing valuable rhythm. All the while, Schumann was perfectly poised to strike and once the runners were in the last straight, he held his position in lane two as others were forced wide to try and overtake him. Said-Guerni - in lane 5 - and a despairing Kipketer in lane 4 - made the boldest efforts in the last strides, but at the finish line Schumann had managed to keep a narrow advantage over Kipketer (6/100ths of a second) with the bronze medal going to Said Guerni with 1:45.16. The official results show that Longo was disqualified for shoving Bucher in the back.
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